Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen was present on August 30 at the Regional Religious Freedom Forum 2022, organized by the Taiwan Democracy Foundation, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affair. She was giving her support to spiritual movements oppressed under authoritarian regimes.
Tsai said: “Religious freedom is a universal human right. But in recent years, we have seen authoritarian regimes repress this fundamental freedom on an ever-greater scale.”
She added: “Our vision is to create a world where no one is persecuted because of their beliefs, traditions, or religious identity.”
The president also mentioned that Taiwan is committed to “the promotion and protection of international religious freedom,” and for this reason she has donated to the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Fund.
Moreover, the Taiwan Democracy Foundation has served as an advisory member of the International Coalition for Religious Freedom and Belief for the past three years.
Rashad Hussain, U.S. ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, praised Taiwan for being one of the strongest U.S. partners in promoting religious freedom.
Hussain said that unfortunate events continue to occur against religions around the world, especially in the Indo-Pacific region, where authoritarian regimes repress people for their spiritual beliefs.
China is the country with the most accusations and complaints for its serious violations of religious freedom and human rights abuses.
Is Taiwan at risk of becoming a CCP Xinjiang?
Taiwan, after the Chinese civil war more than 70 years ago, retained its independence. The Asian island is now a flourishing democracy, but the Chinese Communist Party says that the island should be unified with China, under the formula of “one country, two systems.”
China has declared its threat of invasion, increasing political and military pressure on Taiwan with the intention of provoking its surrender.
International political experts fear that the United States, which it has a strong unofficial relationship with, will start a war with China over Taiwan.
After U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit, in August, relations between the countries are at their worst.
The CCP conducts continuous military training around the island, restricting the entry and exit of supplies, trade and tourism. Taiwan faces daily threats of a CCP invasion.
Nury Turkel, the head of a U.S. agency that monitors religious freedom around the world, warned the Taiwanese that they could face a fate similar to that of the persecuted Uighurs in China’s western Xinjiang region if the CCP succeeds in invading the democratic island.
“We have seen what the CCP is doing to the Uighur people,” said Turkel, who is a Uighur-American attorney and human rights advocate based in Washington, D.C.
“We know what the Chinese regime is doing to the people of Hong Kong and what they are willing to do to their own people in Shanghai in the name of a political goal. And we can be certain that the Chinese leaders pursue the same for Taiwan,” the official added.
Several investigations show the CCP’s abuses against the Uighur ethnic group.
According to testimonies of ethnic Uighurs, they were treated like slaves in factories and suffered the worst human rights atrocities, such as indoctrination, torture, forced abortion, infanticide, rape, and forced removal of organs from living people to be sold to the organ transplant industry.
The CCP moved Uighur citizens en masse from the western region of Xinjiang to factories across the country and into forced labor, making them part of the supply chains of at least 82 well-known global brands in the technology, apparel, and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony, and Volkswagen.
According to the latest U.N. report released on August 31, China is responsible for “serious human rights violations have been committed” in Xinjiang province.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for Human Rights, following her visit to Xinjiang, stated that “allegations of patterns of torture or ill-treatment, including forced medical treatment and adverse conditions of detention, are credible, as are reports of individual incidents of sexual and gender-based violence.”
She added: “The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uighur and other predominantly Muslim groups … may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
Repression of beliefs in China
In China, different religious groups face different levels of persecution by the CCP: Christians, Protestants, Evangelicals, Catholics, Buddhists, Tibetans, Uighur Muslims and Falun Gong practitioners suffer violations of the right to religious freedom.
Freedom of religion, in China, is restricted by means of arrests, severe sentences, physical abuse through torture, indoctrination, brainwashing with drugs in re-education centers, fines, forced confessions, destruction of monasteries and convents, expulsions from schools and loss of jobs, and control under permanent surveillance.
From its beginnings the CCP has been suspicious of religions, with an atheist base, it does not allow its members to believe or practice any faith; it sees religion as an opposing force to its power and control.
However, Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution guarantees freedom of religious belief, but this freedom is restricted by requirements imposed by the CCP, which obliges religions to adapt its “theology, conception and organization” in accordance with socialist principles.
In this way, the CCP determines what belief can be a religion, what is orthodox, prohibits any spiritual belief when it deems it necessary, and prohibits religious celebrations, construction of religious sites, meetings, dissemination of religious material, among others.
A Freedom House report reveals how Christians in China cannot celebrate Christmas, Tibetan monks receive patriotic re-education, and how a Uighur Muslim was sentenced to 9 years in prison just for praying.
This is the case of Falun Gong, which has been brutally persecuted since 1999, after former CCP leader Jiang Zemin launched an unprecedented campaign against the spiritual discipline, mobilizing the entire state apparatus to eliminate Falun Gong.
Human rights organizations have documented more than 100,000 cases of torture of Falun Gong practitioners, but the number is estimated to be higher.
However, amid so much censorship of spiritual beliefs, Chinese citizens have remained true to their faith and continue to resist, which can be seen as a failure of the CCP’s repressive policies against religious freedom.