Trump should push to end persecution of Chinese Christians as part of trade negotiations

Trump should push to end persecution of Chinese Christians as part of trade negotiations
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The peaceful spread of the Christian faith throughout China is viewed as a national security threat by the ruling Communist government.

The U.S. Department of State State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) estimates there are nearly 70 million citizens of China who identify as Christians in a nation with 1.4 billion people. Christians now represent approximately 5 percent of the country’s total population and that number has increased since 2010.

Persecution of Christians and other religious minorities is nothing new in China. However, the significant rise in the Christian faith among the Chinese population over the past decade has is perceived as a threat to the power of the current regime where atheism is the official religion of the government.

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The ruling communist government of Xi Jinping has intensified its efforts to crack down on churches which have failed to register with the "Three-Self Patriotic Movement” the government agency that regulates Protestant churches. Local government officials have been charged by Beijing to closely monitor and close "unauthorized religious gatherings” under the Religious Affairs Regulation directive. The result is the worst persecution of Chinese Christians in over three decades.

Pastor Bob Fu, President of ChinaAid, an organization that monitors and studies human rights abuses and Christian persecution in China, has researched the regimes own documents and found that:

For Christians alone, last year we documented persecution against 1,265 churches, with the number of people persecuted over 223,000. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. In 2016, there were 762 cases of persecution, according to our documentation, with the number of people persecuted 48,000. It is almost five times [as much].

Just last month as the millions of Christians prepared to observe Christmas, the historically harsh government crackdown reached a crescendo as Ronggui Church was raided and closed down by officials from the Guangzhou education and religious affairs departments; the third such church shuttered in only three months.

Previously the 1,500 member Zion Church was shuttered in September and the 500-member Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu was shut down just before the Ronggui closing. The Golden Lampstand Church in the northern Shanxi province was confiscated and demolished without warning in 2017.

The systematic shutting down of churches throughout the country is only the beginning of the campaign against Christians in China. ChinaAid also reports that 3,700 Christians were arrested in 2017 and 3,500 in 2016. Earlier this month a government SWAT team stormed a hotel Nanyang, Henan province where local non-church affiliated Christians meet for an end-of-year meal.

The bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China co-chaired by Senator Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads What the gun safety debate says about Washington Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China MORE and Representative Chris SmithChristopher (Chris) Henry SmithRepublicans plot comeback in New Jersey The 9 House Republicans who support background checks The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE issued a report late last year and found that Christians are not alone in being persecuted for their beliefs as the Chinese government has sent nearly one million Muslims in ‘‘political reeducation’’ camps in western China.

Americans of all faiths urge President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBill Maher says he's 'glad' David Koch is dead Trump spurs new wave of economic angst by escalating China fight Trump on North Korean projectile launches: Kim 'likes testing missiles' MORE, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large For Religious Liberty Sam Brownback and the Trump administration negotiators working on a new trade agreement with the Xi Jinping government, to demand an end to the persecution of Chinese Christians as part of any trade or diplomatic negotiations.

President Trump and his team at the state department have made stopping religious persecution around the world as a top goal of the administration’s foreign policy agenda. The President has shown strong leadership at home and on the international stage on the issue of religious liberty. People of faith and many foreign leaders have come to realize that protecting the rights of people around the world to practice their religion is an essential component of our domestic as well as our foreign policy agenda.

China is not alone in its persecution of Christians; estimates show that over 250 million Christians suffer some form of oppression for their beliefs around the world most notably in North Korea and Iran. However, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ spreading like wildfire through the Chinese population and Christians rapidly move past the 5 percent threshold of the Chinese people and the Xi government looking upon Christians as a threat to the regime, it is expected that China will soon become the number one violator or religious liberty in the world.

This week, a group of faith leaders, religious and human rights organizations launched the Coalition to Advance Religious Freedom in China to provide a unified front of Americans of all faiths in support of religious freedom in China. The coalition is calling for an end to “business as usual” for the United States with China until the Xi government discontinues its assault in the fundamental human rights of Chinese citizens peacefully living their faith.

Millions of Americans of faith hope, pray and implore the Trump administration to raise the issue of Christian persecution to China in the current bilateral trade negotiations and hope that the administration includes religious liberty in every trade, military and economic sanction talks around the globe.

Tim Head is the executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition.