|10/23/2002: Urge China's President to Advance Religious Freedom and Protect North Korean Refugees|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal agency advising the Administration and Congress, yesterday wrote President Bush, asking him to raise religious freedom issues and the plight of North Korean refugees in China during his upcoming summit with Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
"Despite the growing religious activity in China during the last two decades, the government continues its violent crackdown on the freedom of religion and belief of evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, and other groups, such as the Falun Gong, that the government has labeled ‘evil cults,'" wrote Chair Felice Gaer, on behalf of the Commission. "The Commission has concluded that religious freedom conditions have deteriorated in the past year." The text of the letter follows:
October 22, 2002
Dear Mr. President:
We have been heartened when you have publicly spoken out on religious freedom in China and expressed concern for the people of North Korea. We are convinced that those who are suffering repression in those two countries are even more heartened. In regard to your upcoming meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin and pursuant to its advisory responsibilities under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA), the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom respectfully urges you to raise several measures that would advance religious freedom in China and protect North Korean refugees.
In your February 2002 speech at China's Qinghua University, you said: "Freedom of religion is not something to be feared, it's to be welcomed . . . ." Yet, it is clear from events since then that the Chinese government has not taken steps to protect the religious freedom of its citizens. In fact, despite the growing religious activity in China during the last two decades, the government continues its violent crackdown on the freedom of religion and belief of evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, and other groups, such as the Falun Gong, that the government has labeled "evil cults." In October 2001, the Secretary of State determined for the third straight year that China was a "country of particular concern" under IRFA, and the State Department's most recent International Religious Freedom Report states that China's respect for religious freedom remains poor. The Commission has concluded that religious freedom conditions have deteriorated in the past year.
As repressive as conditions in China are, tens of thousands of North Koreans have nevertheless fled there to escape the dire economic and political conditions in their own country. Although the Chinese government has permitted some North Koreans to resettle in South Korea in recent months, many more have been forcibly repatriated by Chinese authorities despite China's ratification of international treaties on refugees. North Koreans who return - voluntarily or otherwise - face imprisonment, or even death, at the hands of the North Korean authorities.
The Commission respectfully urges you to continue to raise religious freedom concerns and the plight of North Korean refugees with the Chinese President.
Specifically, as our two countries expand economic ties and cooperation in the war against terrorism, we recommend that, in accordance with China's obligations under the international human rights treaties to which it is already a party, you urge the Chinese government to:
Thank you for considering the Commission's recommendations.