Jan 25


Jan 25th 3:30pm

U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Hearing

Religious Freedom in Southeast Asia: Techno-Authoritarianism and Transnational Influences

Thursday, January 25, 2024
3:30 -5:00 PM ET

Hearing Transcript

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) hosted a virtual hearing on how Southeast Asian countries use techno-authoritarianism to undermine religious freedom and are increasingly borrowing such tactics from China and Saudi Arabia.

Despite growing civil society activism and economic development in recent decades, religious freedom conditions throughout Southeast Asia continue to stagnate or, in many places, decline. With the rise of technology and digital surveillance, alongside other transnational influences from outside the region, religious freedom is under increasing threat. The Burmese military disseminates hate speech and calls for widespread violence through social media to perpetrate atrocities against the predominantly Muslim Rohingya. In Indonesia, blasphemy charges increasingly cite social media as the source of the offending incident. Across Southeast Asia as a whole, transnational influences from outside the region threaten to change the political and legal landscape with major consequences for religious freedom and related human rights.

The first panel discussed trends in technology and digital surveillance throughout Southeast Asia impacting religious freedom. The second panel discussed transnational influences from outside of Southeast Asia, such as China and Saudi Arabia, that seek to fundamentally alter the religious freedom landscape.

Opening Remarks

Panel I

  • Kirril Shields, Program Manager, Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
    Written Testimony
  • Michelle Lee, Graduate Researcher, Columbia University
    Written Testimony

Panel II

  • Rana S. Inboden, Senior Fellow with the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, University of Texas at Austin
    Written Testimony
  • James Chin, Professor of Asian Studies, University of Tasmania
    Written Testimony
  • Andrew Khoo, Co-Chair, Constitutional Law Committee, Bar Council Malaysia
    Written Testimony

Submitted for the Record

Statement from The Sikh Coalition

This hearing is open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the public, and the media. Members of the media should register online and can email [email protected] for any questions or to schedule an interview. The video recording of the hearing will be posted on the Commission website. For any additional questions, please contact [email protected].