“The party demands that it alone be called God,” Secretary Mike Pompeo said.
Beijing’s “intense persecution of many faiths—Falun Gong practitioners, Christians, and Tibetan Buddhists among them —is the norm,” Pompeo said in a press conference Friday. “The Chinese Communist Party has exhibited extreme hostility to all religious faiths since its founding. The party demands that it alone be called God.”
Pompeo drew particular attention to the situation in China’s northwestern territory of Xinjiang. According to Reuters, U.N. experts and activists say at least 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims are held in the detention centers in Xinjiang. China describes the camps as training centers helping to stamp out extremism and give people new skills.
“I had a chance to meet with some Uighurs here, but unfortunately, most Chinese Uighurs don’t get a chance to tell their stories,” Pompeo said. “That’s why, in an effort to document the staggering scope of religious freedom abuses in Xinjiang, we’ve added a special section to this year’s China report.”
Pompeo also listed other nations where governments are restricting religious freedom:
- Iran, where there is a continuing crackdown on Baha’is, Christians, and others.
- Russia, where the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion has been banned and authorities confiscate members’ property.
- Burma, where Rohingya Muslims “continue to face violence at the hands of the military.”
- Turkey, which continues to refuse to allow the reopening of a Greek Orthodox seminary in Istanbul.
And, in Pakistan, in spite of the release of Asia Bibi, who was on death row for blasphemy against Islam, more than 40 others remain jailed for life or face execution on the same charge.
Pompeo also announced that the State Department is elevating the Office of International Religious Freedom, along with the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Those offices will report directly to the under secretary for civilian security, democracy, and human rights, he said.
“The reorganization will provide these offices with additional staff and resources, and enhance partnerships both within our agency and without,” Pompeo said. “It will empower them to better carry out their important mandates.”
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