CHINA: President Obama – Raise Religious Freedom on G20 Trip

Aug 31, 2016

August 31, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Religious freedom conditions in China have deteriorated under the leadership of President Xi Jinping.  Given this deterioration, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) urges President Obama to raise religious freedom concerns with President Xi and urge the release of prisoners of conscience during his visit to China for the G20 Summit. The Summit takes place on September 4 - 5 in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province.  

As the Chinese government aggressively asserts itself on the global stage, at home it aggressively violates the human rights and religious freedom of its citizens,” said USCIRF Chair Thomas J. Reese, S.J. “While these violations have intensified in Zhejiang Province, the location of the G20 Summit, they also are taking place throughout China as the government seeks to repress the voices of individuals and groups advocating for their rights.

Zhejiang Province is home to a large Christian population. Ahead of the Summit, Chinese authorities cited “safety concerns” to close churches in Hangzhou. They also banned religious activities in hospitals across the province, and reportedly warned underground house churches to cease conducting so-called “illegal” activities.  Since 2013, as part of a campaign targeting “illegal” structures,” the government destroyed more than 1,500 crosses, along with some churches. In other parts of China, the authorities have discriminated against and, at times, violently suppressed, Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists, and harassed and imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners.

The Chinese government also continues its crackdown on people of all faiths and beliefs, including through forcible disappearances, torture, detention, and imprisonment. Prisoners of conscience include: Bao Guohua and Xing Wenxiang, Protestant pastors from Zhejiang sentenced this year to 14 and 12 years’ imprisonment for opposing cross removals; Ilham Tohti, a Uighur Muslim scholar sentenced to life imprisonment for his peaceful advocacy of Uighur rights; and Thabkhe (Thamkey) Gyatso, a Tibetan Buddhist monk serving a 15-year prison sentence following protests against the government’s repressive rule of Tibet.  Zhiwen Wang, a Falun Gong practitioner who was persecuted and imprisoned for 15 years, was released in 2014, but the Chinese government has prevented him from receiving proper medical care and reuniting with his family in the United States. Gao Zhisheng, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist who was disappeared, tortured, and imprisoned, currently is under strict surveillance and is denied freedom of movement.

USCIRF again recommended in 2016 that China be designated as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act for its particularly severe violations of religious freedom. The State Department has designated China as a CPC since 1999. For more information, see the China Chapter (in English and Chinese) in USCIRF’s 2016 Annual Report. 

To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at 202-786-0615 or