A key U.S. ambassador this week suggested we are getting a glimpse of “the future of what oppression’s going to look like.”
The backdrop for this forewarning was the release of the State Department’s annual international religious freedom report. It’s a report in which one global power’s transgressions have become more and more pronounced each year.
That nation is China.
One particularly atrocious situation is the communist giant’s detention of “more than one million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Hui, and members of other Muslim groups, as well as Uighur Christians, in specially built or converted internment camps in Xinjiang.”
The State Department goes on to assert these individuals become victims of “forced disappearance, political indoctrination, torture, physical and psychological abuse, including forced sterilization and sexual abuse, forced labor, and prolonged detention without trial because of their religion and ethnicity.”
During a press conference Wednesday, a reporter asked U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback if the coronavirus crisis had led any of these prisoners to be released. Brownback did not see evidence of that, but said that even if they were let go, they would be entering a “virtual police state.”
Brownback warned that China is showing us what’s to come in totalitarian regimes.
“It’s going to be cameras and identification. It’s going to be social credit systems. It’s going to be oppression, particularly if you want to practice your faith,” he said.
The ambassador believes China’s danger is greater than just its persecution of people within its borders — though that is chilling. Brownback is alarmed by China’s work to export its modern tools and tactics of oppression.
In his remarks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also had choice words for the Chinese government. He called the authoritarian regime’s attempt to undermine the U.S. during our recent days of domestic anguish “obscene.”
“There is no equivalence between our two forms of government,” Pompeo said “We have the rule of law; China does not. We have free speech and embrace peaceful protest. They don’t.”
Pompeo then declared, “We defend religious freedom… China continues its decades-long war on faith.”
Certainly, you don’t need to read far in the State Department’s review of China to see the dangers there. According to the report, the government is intent on carrying out its campaign of sinicization — forcing all to bow and be assimilated under the authority of the ruling communist party. Local law enforcement and citizens are even financially incentivized to root out “illegal religious activity.”
And it’s not only the house churches and other unsanctioned religious groups that are persecuted. Those authorized by the state as “patriotic religious associations” also saw venues shuttered. According to the State Department, Chinese authorities then “placed surveillance cameras in houses of worship as a condition of allowing these venues to continue operating.”
Essentially, Brownback warned, if you want to practice your faith in China, there will be consequences — and not just for you. He says there will be consequences for “anybody else that pings you on your cell phone.”
If this is a preview of what’s to come, we would do well to pay prayerful attention.
It also underscores the importance of the executive order President Donald Trump signed last week putting real, tangible weight behind U.S. attempts to export our first freedom —religious liberty.
May we pray for our leaders to be successful in promoting freedom and countering tools of oppression. It seems, in the words of Secretary Pompeo, “the contrast couldn’t be more clear.”
“…and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10)
Author: Aaron Mercer, original post Ifapray.org published on June 13, 2020. Aaron Mercer is a Contributing Writer with two decades of experience in Washington, D.C.’s public policy arena and Christian associations. A seasoned strategist, he aids organizations with research, analysis, and writing services, and he reflects on faith, technology, and the public square at FTPolicy.com.