In the 1970s, if Americans awoke to the headline “Soviet Russia calls gulag criticism unfair,” would we back off? No. And Ronald Reagan would not. The Soviet record was dark. It stayed dark until Soviet Communism ended on the “ash heap of history” – just as Reagan predicted.
Today, we read “China says human rights criticism unhelpful for trade talks.” Should we back off? Hardly. Trade deals are nice, but human rights are not a second order moral concern. China is a major offender – across multiple categories.
That is why the United Nations is pushing to end religious persecution in China, beginning with Muslims in Xinjiang, where a million are detained behind maximum security fences for “reeducation” in “vocational training centers.” Photographs alone are disturbing.
Not surprisingly, China also treats Jesus Christ as unhealthy competition – for communism. In a country where individual conscience and faith can constitute Orwellian thoughtcrimes, religious devotion can be dangerous. Highest loyalty must be to Party, which is why thousands of Christians are persecuted. They place Christ above Communism.
Leading human rights organizations detail: where, when, how many and how often Christians are persecuted. They likely underreport. Demands were recently now made on the Catholic Church. Priests can only serve if approved by the Communist Party. Churches are thus beholden, as non-catacomb Orthodox churches were in the Soviet Union.
Communists penetrate these “houses of worship” to monitor the faithful. Orwell predicted it. Proliferating Chinese artificial intelligence and biometric surveillance keep the masses in line – especially the dangerous religious masses. China makes no secret of these priorities or practices.
Lest we forget, religious faith – guaranteed by our First Amendment – is anathema to Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, Socialism and Communism. Western media soft-shoe Chinese religious persecution – but it is real.
In 2019, churches have been shuttered across China. This triggered an explosion of underground churches. The faithful are not often dissuaded by fear. A 2019 British report noted: “China’s Communist party is intensifying religious persecution as Christianity’s popularity grows.” The candle will not stay under the bushel basket forever.
Recently, China authorized a “state translation” of the Bible and Communist “moral code.” Without subtlety, they hope to lash church to party, and vice versa. Big Brother resents competition. Truth is truth does not bow to power. The fight will be long. Can “vocational training” for Christians be far behind?
In any event, this is one reason international voices are rising. Last month, the United States and 22 other nations issued a “joint statement” pressing China to respect human rights, starting with Muslim Uygurs.
Will international outrage matter? Maybe, maybe not. In an act of cognitive dissonance, or perhaps Orwellian doublethink, Beijing’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun challenged those questioning China’s right to ethnic and religious herding, detention and oppression.
Beyond counting Uygur’s re-education, a communist prerogative – as the Soviets counted reeducation their sovereign right – China denies hard facts. That too is not new.
China claims this right as firmly as their right to build and militarize artificial islands in the middle of an international waterway and deploy anti-satellite weapons to space abrogating international treaties. In effect, say, “who will stop us?”
And they have a point. To date, no one has. Only President Trump has dared call out their bad behavior. Trump challenged their unfair trade practices, demanded a level playing field, questioned theft of intellectual property, extortion of foreign companies, violation of World Trade Organization rules, inserting “backdoors” into computer keyboards and 5-G technology.
President Trump is the only President in history to throw a flag, and say “no.” Trump may want a major trade deal with China, but signing this statement is also significant. By this act, he acknowledges human rights matter – and China is a major violator.
Concerted international condemnation of China’s human rights abuses is a start. By itself, this joint resolution will not stop repression of religious freedom across China. That nation’s Communist leaders are tone deaf and powerful. But it is a start. Perhaps a response to “human rights criticism is unhelpful for trade talks” might be “human rights violations are unhelpful for trade talks.” More simply, the Trump team could offer a historical reference point: “See Ronald Reagan, Soviet Union, Ash Heap.”