America’s foreign policy regarding China has focused on tariffs and trade wars for the last two years but China does more than practice unfair trade. It’s also one of the world’s worst perpetrators of religious-based discrimination and violence.
Like most centralized, communist governments, China views religion as a threat. Should citizens believe in a higher deity, they may no longer give their supreme faith and loyalty to the government. To counter such a perceived threat China has been regulating, oppressing, and Sinicizing religion.
Muslim Uighurs are the group most harshly targeted by the Chinese government. Uighur is a Turkic ethnicity and 11 million Uighurs live in the Western Xinjiang region of China. Millions of Muslim Uighurs are currently detained by the regime in “re-education camps,” where there are reports of physical and psychological torture. Families are separated and taught anti-religious, pro-government propaganda. Uighurs must renounce their religion and swear loyalty to China’s Communist party to earn back their freedom. Outside of these camps, Chinese public schools condemn Muslim culture. The government also takes down crescent symbols from mosques and punishes those who wear traditional Islamic attire or grow long beards.
China oppresses Christians, too. In December, the government arrested Wang Yi, a Christian pastor, and more than 100 of his congregants. By practicing their faith, the government contended that they were “inciting subversion.” The regime frequently closes underground churches and replaces murals of Jesus with pictures of China’s president, Xi Jinping. Bibles are confiscated and believers and activists can face jail-time, or worse. ChinaAid, a human rights organization, documented 223,000 Christians persecuted and 1,265 church closings in 2016 alone. That’s more than three churches shut down every day in China.
Our current trade-war with China is understandable, but ultimately short-sighted. Placing tariffs on China only gives the Chinese incentives to manipulate our economy. Congress should consider sanctions instead of tariffs, and tie these penalties to China’s regressive, anti-religious policies.
We should show the communist regime that America will always defend the defenseless. As Senator John McCain said in his final book, “It is a mistake to view foreign policy, as the Chinese would like us to view it, as simply transactional. Depriving the oppressed of a beacon of hope could lose us the world we have built and thrived in.”
Throughout our history, America has been the voice for victims of tyranny and persecution across the globe. We should be so today.