USCIRF Virtual Hearing on Technological Surveillance of Religion in China

Jul 22


Jul 22nd 10:00am

U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Hearing

Technological Surveillance of Religion in China

Wednesday, July 22, 2020
10:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Virtual Hearing

Hearing Transcript

Hearing Summary

Please join the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for a virtual hearing about the Chinese government’s use of surveillance and data analytic technology to oppress religious groups and how the United States government should respond.

During the past two decades, the Chinese government has created an Orwellian surveillance state with an unprecedented ability to gather private information about its citizens. The government has installed hundreds of millions of surveillance cameras across the country, using facial and voice recognition systems to distinguish and track Uyghurs and Tibetans. In addition, authorities have systematically installed cameras in churches to identify and target anyone who attends services. Meanwhile, Chinese censors monitor WeChat and other social media apps for “unauthorized” religious content, while hackers target the phones of religious freedom advocates. China’s exportation of its surveillance technology and repressive model holds dire implications for religious freedom around the world.

As a consequence, in October 2019 and again in May 2020, the U.S. Department of Commerce restricted certain Chinese companies from obtaining advanced U.S. technology and recently warned American businesses about the legal and ethical risks of developing surveillance tools in Xinjiang. While some U.S. companies have begun to reassess the compromises required to conduct business in China, the U.S. government and American businesses can and must do more to protect religious freedom for all.

Witnesses will provide analysis on U.S. export regulations, international human rights standards for tech companies, how China continues to use data analysis to target people of faith, and policy recommendations about how the U.S. government can help the tech sector protect religious freedom.

Opening Remarks

Panel I

  • Cordell Hull, Acting Under Secretary of Industry and Security, U.S. Department of Commerce
    Written Testimony

Panel II

  • Amy Lehr, Director, Human Rights Initiative, Center for Strategic and International Studies
    Written Testimony
  • Chris Meserole, Deputy Director, Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative, Brookings Institution
    Written Testimony
  • Sheena Greitens, Associate Professor, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin
    Written Testimony
  • Lobsang Gyatso Sither, Digital Security Programs Director, Tibet Action Institute
    Written Testimony

Witnesses’ Bios

This hearing is open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the public, and the media. Members of the media should email 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 Jamie Staley at or 202-279-0274.


Gayle Manchin, Chair · Tony Perkins, Vice Chair · Anurima Bhargava, Vice Chair
Gary Bauer · James W. Carr · Frederick A. Davie
Nadine Maenza · Johnnie Moore · Nury Turkel

Erin D. Singshinsuk, Executive Director

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad.