OPED By Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Reverend Johnnie Moore & Ted Gover
Will the International Olympic Committee remove the 2022 Olympic Winter Games from China given Beijing’s blatant abuse of human rights and continued crackdown on Uighurs and Christians?
One of the rare bipartisan issues in Washington these days is concern over China on issues ranging from national defense, technology security, and trade. While there is growing consensus among Democrats and Republicans that Washington needs to hold Beijing accountable for military aggression, trade abuses, and intellectual property theft, more needs to be done to confront the Chinese Communist Party on human rights abuses — in particular its severe crackdown on religion.
They should take a page from the historic bipartisan efforts on behalf of Soviet Jewry a generation ago that successfully pressured another communist, atheistic power — the Soviet Union — to back down from its crushing repression of 3 million Jewish citizens while simultaneously negotiating trade deals and pursuing nuclear disarmament.
At the outset of 2021, few Americans understand the disturbing degree, which Christians and Uighur Muslims in China are persecuted and how Beijing’s ongoing assault on these communities constitutes one of the primary human rights tragedies taking place today.
China’s Christian community — estimated at 100 to 130 million people — has suffered increased state suppression that has included the destruction of churches, the removal of crosses from church roofs as well as the harassment of priests. According to ChinaAid’s 2018 report, there has been a sharp uptick in the persecution of Christians in China consisting of over 5,000 people being detained of which over 1,000 were church leaders.
As part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s 2017 declaration of a new era of ”socialism with Chinese characteristics” or Xi Jinping Thought, recent years have seen Chinese authorities make efforts to sinicize Christianity by disconnecting relations with Western Christian entities, reinterpreting teachings according to “socialist values” and rewriting scripture.
The CCP has also stepped up its campaign to limit the scope of Christianity in China, utilize state-backed churches as mouthpieces of Chinese Communist Party propaganda, and shut down unregistered congregations.
Furthermore, the CCP is working to prevent Christianity from being passed down to future generations by prohibiting minors from attending church services and pursuing studies about the faith. Churches are also not allowed to encourage minors to pursue careers as Christian clergy.
In Hong Kong, home to over 1 million Christians, many of the protestors in support of the city’s autonomy are Christian and are viewed as a threat by Beijing. The demonstrators’ most prominent supporter, newspaper and fashion mogul Jimmy Lai, is a practicing Catholic and was holding a Bible as he was rearrested on December 31 on charges of national security violations and fraud.
Concerning China’s Uighur Muslim community, Beijing’s attempts to suppress and ultimately eradicate the Islamic faith from its territory are terrifying in its scope. The extensive system of internment camps that China has constructed for its Uighur population — believed by some analysts to be the largest network of detention centers in existence today — detains an estimated 2 million Uighurs, or just over 11% of China’s Uighur population according to reports.
Uighurs have also endured the bulldozing of mosques, forced quartering of government monitors in Uighur homes, marking of Uighur dwellings with QR codes to monitor families’ activities and arbitrary detainment of Uighurs to re-education camps that declare Muslim practices as sinful.
Some of the more common techniques used against the Uighur detainees have involved “patriotic training”; indoctrination; de-extremification; brainwashing; involuntary labor at sweatshops – – which may be producing products for American consumers; and the forced consumption of pork and alcohol – – all conducted under the threat of violence.
Other abuses have involved the systematic tracking, surveillance, and arrests of Uighurs as well as forced sterilization of Uighur women and accompanied mandatory abortion measures aimed at slashing the birth rates of China’s Muslim population.
For the sake of human rights and equal treatment of peoples under international law, China must reform its repressive Christian and Uighur policies. Advocates on this issue — the White House, the UN Human Rights Council, and human rights NGOs — must speak out and bring added focus to these crimes taking place on Chinese soil.
President Xi has made clear that he plays hardball and plays for keeps in pursuit of what he identifies as key national interests.
Candlelit vigils alone won’t change policies, though they can inspire hearts. So will social media campaigns, especially if American cultural and sports figures express their solidarity for the basic human dignity of religious Christians and Muslims in China.
But to ensure that Beijing will at least reconsider its draconian measures, part of the effort should involve the next Olympic Winter Games which are scheduled to take place in Beijing in February 2022. While the Olympics are a promotion of global peace and unity, the CCP’s abuses of Chinese Christians and Uighurs make a mockery of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) stated ideals of building a peaceful, better world. The CCP’s misdeeds against its citizens of the Christian and Islamic faiths must compel the IOC and global community to demand needed changes in order for the Games to go forward in Beijing.
Beijing’s egregious behavior demands a rethink as to whether or not the 2022 Winter Games should be held in Beijing absent a major course correction of the regime towards its Christian and Muslim populations. Beijing should make compromises on key human rights issues involving the widespread detention of Uighurs and increasingly aggressive measures to bring its 60 million Christians to heel.
More broadly, the international community must ask itself what the ultimate price will be for societies built upon universal ideals and the rule of law to silently acquiesce to the CCP’s power and wealth as it bullies the world into subservience and silence while crushing religious freedom. As it projects its immense power outwardly, Beijing will likely decide that there are no red lines — at home or abroad – – that it will not cross.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper (@SimonWiesenthal) is the Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Rev. Johnnie Moore (@JohnnieM) is the President of the Congress of Christian Leaders and a Commissioner on the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom.
Ted Gover, Ph.D. (@TedGover), is the Director of the Tribal Administration Program at Claremont Graduate University.
The piece, first appeared in Newsweek on January 11, 2021, has been slightly edited by The EurAsian Times.
Views expressed are authors’ own