(CNSNews.com) -- Communist China’s persecution of people of faith – Tibetan Buddhists, Muslim Uighurs, and Christians – goes back decades and reflects the totalitarian government’s policy of seeking to force socialist ideology on its citizens, including their religious faith, said Vice President Mike Pence at the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom on July 18.
“China’s oppression of Tibetan Buddhists goes back decades, as part of its efforts to oppress Tibetan Buddhism,” said Pence, an evangelical Christian. “Back in 1995, Chinese authorities captured the legitimate Panchen Lama, then just a 6-year-old boy, and neither he nor his family have been heard from in the 24 years since.”
Pence also noted and condemned the oppression of Uighur Muslims in Western China. “In Xinjiang, the Communist Party has imprisoned more than a million Chinese Muslims, including Uighurs, in internment camps, where they endure round-the-clock brainwashing,” he said. “Survivors of the camps have described their experiences as a deliberate attempt by Beijing to strangle Uighur culture and stamp out the Muslim faith.”
Pence expressed sadness over the great Christian persecution in China, but also optimism over the many Christian conversions occurring in that oppressive regime.
“Religious persecution in China has also targeted the Christian faith, but in one of the greatest ironies in the history of Christianity, in today’s Communist China, we actually see the fastest growth in the Christian faith that we have ever seen anywhere on Earth in the last 2,000 years,” he said.
“Just 70 years ago, when the Communist Party took power, there were fewer than half a million Chinese Christians, yet today, just two generations later, faith in Jesus Christ has reached as many as 130 million Chinese Christians,” said Pence. “The truth is, faith is breaking out all across China, even in the streets of Hong Kong...The pathway through persecution lies in the faith and resilience of the persecuted.”
Pence concluded his talk on religious oppression by focusing on what he called the worst offender of religious rights: North Korea.
“But for all the challenges that believers face in China, the treatment of people of faith in North Korea is much worse,” he said. “As the United Nations commission on human rights reported, and I quote, ‘the violation of human rights in the D.P.R.K. constitute crimes against humanity the gravity, scale, and nature of which has no parallel in the contemporary world.’”
“Open Doors has identified North Korea as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians for the past 18 years,” said the vice president. “The North Korean regime formally demands its officials act to, in their words, ‘wipe out the seed of Christian reactionaries.’”
The U.S. State Department estimated in 2016 that there are approximately 650 million believers in China, although the People’s Republic put the number at 100 million, 10 percent of the population.
There are an estimated 300,000 Christians in North Korea. Penalties for Christian worship include labor camps and execution.