Co-Chairs Issue Joint Statement in Support of Solidarity Sabbath and Religious Freedom in China
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This weekend, in recognition of Solidarity Sabbath, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission stands in solidarity with all those who affirm and support the fundamental human right to freedom of religion, conscience, and belief.
We especially wish to call on the People’s Republic of China to ensure that these fundamental rights are protected for all people, regardless of their faith, race or ethnicity. Over the past year, the Chinese central government and many provincial governments within China have continued or strengthened repressive policies towards faith-based communities.
Since January of 2014, as many as 1,500 Christian churches have been demolished or had their crosses removed as part of a concerted government campaign to intimidate their members. Scores of Christians have been detained, arrested or imprisoned for protesting the demolitions. Last April 14th, in Henan Province, a government-backed demolition crew buried Pastor Li Jiangong and his wife, Ding Cuimei, as they attempted to prevent the destruction of the Beitou Church. Pastor Li escaped, but Ding Cuimei suffocated before she could be rescued.
Equally appalling, China also continued a violent crackdown on Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists, while continuing to harass, detain, or imprison Falun Gong practitioners on a regular basis. According to the International Campaign for Tibet, 145 Tibetans have self-immolated since February 27th, 2009, in protest of China’s repressive policies and widespread human rights abuses against Tibetans.
To make matters worse, those who attempt to defend the communities and fundamental human rights are facing an unprecedented level of harassment. According to various reports, hundreds of human rights lawyers and activists have been interrogated by authorities over the past year. Some have disappeared, while many others have been held in extrajudicial detention facilities, or “black jails.”
In light of the continuing assaults on freedom of religion, conscience, and belief in China, the Commission once again reiterates its support for these freedoms, calls on the international community to condemn all violations as they occur, and pledges to continue working with and supporting all those who fight on behalf of fundamental human rights.