Mihrigul Tursun said she pleaded with God to end her life as her Chinese jailers increased the electrical currents coursing through her body. Tursun, a Muslim Uighur whose escape led her to the United States in September, broke down weeping at a Nov. 28 congressional hearing as she recounted her experience in one of China's infamous political "re-education centers."
It is an appalling story but one that is all too familiar as existential threats to religious freedom rise in President Xi Jinping's China. The world can't ignore what's happening there. We must all stand up and oppose these human rights violations.
The ruling Chinese Communist Party has undertaken the most comprehensive attempt to manipulate and control--or destroy--religious communities since Chairman Mao made the eradication of religion a goal of his disastrous Cultural Revolution half a century ago. Now Xi, apparently fearing the power of independent religious belief as a challenge the Communist Party's legitimacy, is trying to radically transform religion into the party's servant, employing a draconian policy known as Sinicization.
Under Sinicization, all religions and believers must comport with and aggressively promote communist ideology--or else.
Bibles are burned, churches destroyed, crosses set ablaze atop church steeples and now, under Xi, religious leaders are required to install facial-recognition cameras in their places of worship. New regulations expand restrictions on religious expression online and prohibit those under age 18 from attending services.
Government officials are also reportedly rewriting religious texts--including the Bible--that remove content unwanted by the atheist Communist Party, and have launched a five-year Sinicization plan for Chinese Protestant Christians.
These efforts have taken a staggering human toll. In recent months, more than 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region have been detained, tortured and forced to renounce their faith.
Yet despite this anti-religion campaign, the Vatican has shown a disturbing lack of alarm concerning these threats, and instead appears to be seeking a form of accommodation.
One can hope that Beijing has made concessions to the church that have yet to be revealed. Initial reports are less than promising.
What can be done more generally in response to Xi's war on religion? The United States and several European countries have condemned it, but any nation that values freedom of religion should unite in denouncing China's treatment of Muslim Uighurs, Christians, Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong practitioners. In particular, Muslim-majority countries, strangely muted regarding the persecution of Muslim Uighurs, must protest these abuses even at the risk of endangering the benefits from China's "Belt and Road" infrastructure projects.
The United States must lead the way in letting the Chinese Communist Party know that taking a hammer and sickle to the cross and enslaving more than 1 million Uighurs in an effort to erase their religion and culture are destructive, shameful acts that will not be tolerated by the community of nations.
Chris Smith, a Republican, represents New Jersey in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Editorial on 12/29/2018
Print Headline: China's war on religion