Commission: Trump Administration Should ‘Integrate Religious Freedom’ into China Trade Negotiations

By Ilona Schumicky | July 8, 2019 | 11:09 AM EDT

(Getty Images/Hector Retamal)

The Trump Administration should incorporate demands for religious freedom and human rights reforms into its trade talks and other negotiations with China, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommends.

In its assessment of China published in April, the USCIRF, reports that religious freedom conditions in China have deteriorated and, as a result, the U.S. State Department should redesignate China as a “country of particular concern” (CPC) again in 2019:

“In 2018, religious freedom conditions in China trended negative after the new Regulations on Religious Affairs—implemented on February 1, 2018—effectively banned “unauthorized” religious teachings and required religious groups to report any online activity.”

‘USCIRF recommends that the State Department redesignate China as a CPC under IRFA and maintain the existing, ongoing export restrictions under the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1990 and 1991 (P.L. 101-246).”

In particular, the USCIRF notes, as reported in March, China’s imprisonment of as many as two million Muslims in “internment camps.”

The report recommends ways the U.S. can address such violations of religious freedom rights with China – such as incorporating the concerns into the current negotiations on issues, such as trade:

“Integrate religious freedom and related human rights diplomacy into ongoing trade negotiations, the U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, and all other levels of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship, and devise messaging tailored to specific religious communities in China.”

Other strategies suggested in the report include cooperation with other governments and international organization, such as the UN, to put more pressure on the Chinese government using sanctions and public diplomacy and to fund programs in China preserve cultural and religious heritage. Additionally, USCIRF recommends working with different U.S.-based organizations to counter Chinese government influence in the United States.

International criticism of China has increased during the second half of 2018. In September, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on China to provide the UN access to areas of the country where the most severe human rights violations have been reported:

“China’s review last month by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination brought to light deeply disturbing allegations of large-scale arbitrary detentions of Uighurs and other Muslim communities, in so called re-education camps across Xinjiang. CERD's concluding observations corroborate other reports we have received. Reports have also been received of patterns of human rights violations in other regions. In light of these reports, we would request the Government to permit access for the Office to all regions of China, and trust we will embark on discussion of these issues.”


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