Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chair of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) described China’s overall human rights record, detailed in the 2016 Annual Report released today, as “utterly disgraceful.”
The report, the gold standard for Chinese human rights activists, concluded that the Chinese government’s efforts to silence dissent, suppress human rights lawyers, and control civil society, religious groups, and the Internet were broader in scope than during any other period since the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989. Click Here to read the Full Annual Report.
The 2016 Annual Report shows that Chinese government also continued to maintain coercive population control polices, abandoning the “One-Child Policy” for a universal “Two-Child Policy” in October, 2015. According to the CECC’s Report, the vast infrastructure of government officials who implement coercive population control policies remains in place and the revisions of birth limits may never fully address China’s sex-ratio imbalance. As of 2015, there were reportedly 34 million more men than women and there are an estimated 62 million “missing girls,” those aborted due to a cultural preference for sons and exacerbated by decades of enforced birth limitations. The sex ratio imbalance is a significant factor that contributes to human trafficking for forced marriage and commercial sexual exploitation.
“In the long line of the Chinese Communist Party’s mistakes, its population control policies are one of the deadliest and most hated. The Chinese government should not be applauded for change last year, the state still limits the size of Chinese families–-a ‘One-Child Policy’ has become a ‘Two-Child Policy’ while the coercive population control apparatus remains essentially unchanged,” said Smith.
“Families that want a third child will still face the pressure to abort their child or pay exorbitant fines. The sad reality is that policy change will have little effect on China’s shrinking workforce, the social problems of a rapidly aging population, or the human trafficking problems caused by China’s massive sex-ratio imbalance—it is a matter of too little, too late. The United States must continue advocating for the complete elimination of government enforced population control, helping to cosign this horrific policy to the dustbin of history—once and for all.”
Smith warned despite the glaring report on their behavior, the Chinese government may be implementing even more draconian regulations as early as tomorrow, October 7, 2016. A revised “Regulations on Religious Affairs” that has tougher controls on religious education, increasing scrutiny of religious speech online, tighter controls on all religious activities, and emphasis on religion as a national security threat. According to Chinese religious leaders, the new rules are aimed at eliminating independent Protestant worship, suppressing Tibetan Buddhist and Uyghur Muslim who are considered to be ‘separatists,’ and undermining the Vatican’s influence on Chinese Catholics.
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“The Chinese government’s human rights record is utterly disgraceful, continuing a downward trend over the past three years. The Chinese government took extraordinary and unprecedented steps last year to decimate the ranks of human rights lawyers, crush independent civil society and religious groups, and expanded controls over the Internet and the press,” said Smith.
“President Xi Jinping runs roughshod over the freedoms of the Chinese people and there are only tepid responses from the U.S. government. Getting China’s help to conclude a failed Iran nuclear deal was more important that standing up for China’s freedom advocates. The next Administration should prioritize human rights and religious freedom and should press Beijing vigorously for more transparency and better adherence to universal standards.”
Smith said it was stunning, but not surprising, that the Chinese government would look to “double-down” on its record of abuse by announcing new “Regulations on Religions Affairs” in the same week as the release of the human rights report.
“Religious practice is exploding in China, particularly among Christians, and the Communist Party is seeking to regain control. Such efforts have failed in the past and will fail spectacularly now—the Party will not be able to mold religion in its image. Religious freedom in China is constantly under assault and the new regulations will increase repression. This will create needless confrontations with hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens whose religious faith is central to their daily lives,” said Smith.
The regulations on religion, which were expected after President Xi Jinping gave a speech in April, 2016 urging the “Sinicization” of religion—meaning religious communities must “interpret religious doctrines in a way that is conducive to modern China’s progress and in line with our excellent traditional culture”—and urged the selection of more politically reliable leaders for religious groups. In February of that year, Smith gave a speech at the Shanghai campus NYU warning about the impact of any “Sinicization” campaign. Click Here to read Smith’s NYU speech.
“If President Xi was serious about creating political stability and fighting terrorism, serious about economic development and fighting corruption he should be embracing religious freedom and not crushing it. We know that in countries where religious freedom takes root, peace and prosperity follow,” said Smith.
Congressman Smith is the author of H.R. 1150, the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, which passed the House in June, 2016 and is waiting Senate action. H.R. 1150 would give the State Department additional tools, resources, and authority to promote and protect religious freedom in China and elsewhere. Click Here to read H.R. 1150.
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China was created by Congress in October 2000 to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China, and to submit an annual report to the President and the Congress. Members of the Commission include up to nine Representatives and nine Senators from both parties, along with five senior officials in the Executive Branch, representing the Department of State, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Commerce.
Smith has Chaired 60 hearings on human rights conditions in China and China’s enforcement of coercive population control policies.