CECC Chairs’ Statement on President Xi’s Speech on Religion

Call on Xi to End Destruction of Religious Property and Cease Unlawful Detention of Religious Leaders and Lawyers Seeking to Represent Them

(Washington DC)— Following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s address before senior Communist Party leaders at a conference on religion this past weekend, the chair and cochair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) today issued the following statements:

“China continues to close itself off to foreign influence at the very time it is seeking a greater role on the global stage, said Representative Chris Smith, CECC Chair. “President Xi’s speech last weekend was not a bold new policy direction, but a sadly counterproductive restatement of old themes and the tacit endorsement of more restrictions, detentions, and property destruction.” Smith continued, “The Chinese Communist Party will not be able to mold religion in its image; such efforts failed in the past and ‘sinicization’ efforts will fail spectacularly now, ostracizing, needlessly, hundreds of millions of peaceful and productive Chinese citizens. Contemporary scholarship shows clearly that the protection of religious freedom brings more economic freedom, more women’s empowerment, more political stability, and less religion-related violence and terrorism.  These things all seem to be consistent with the Chinese government interests; so it is unclear why, other than stubborn ideological orthodoxy, new approaches are not being considered—particularly given the persistent growth of religious belief in China.”    

“Religious freedom is constantly under assault in China. The Chinese government routinely restricts the ability of the Chinese people, through counterproductive and sometimes brutal methods, to worship and peacefully live out their faith according to the dictates of their conscience,” said Senator Marco Rubio, CECC Cochair, “and President Xi’s speech this past weekend is more evidence of the same failed approach.”   Rubio continued, “The explosive growth of religious belief in China cannot be thwarted by threats, detentions, or an emphasis on the outdated, authoritarian ideology of Communism.  If President Xi was serious about domestic stability, serious about curtailing terrorism, serious about economic development and fighting corruption, he would be embracing religious freedom, instead of advising additional restrictions and unnecessary confrontations with the hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens whose religious faith is central to their daily lives.”

Specifically the chairs called on President Xi to immediately do the following:

  • End the destruction of religious property that has led to confrontations between religious groups
  • Cease unlawful detentions of religious leaders and the lawyers seeking to represent them
  • Allow for the robust participation of Chinese civil society, including religious groups, in the upcoming G-20 summit

Additional Background: Last week reports emerged of the tragic death of Ding Cuimei who, with her husband, stood in front of bulldozers ordered to destroy their small Protestant church in Henan province in an attempt to prevent the demolition from proceeding.  Multiple news accounts indicate that she suffocated to death beneath the rubble. In addition, over 2,000 crosses have been forcibly removed from Christian churches, and dozens of churches demolished, in the province of Zheijaing—which will host the annual meeting of G-20 leaders in September 2016.