February 11, 2019
By FRC Vice President for Policy Travis Weber
The "de-linking" of trade and human rights in China that took place in the 1990s was supposed to advance both. While it helped the former (at least for China), it did nothing for the latter. Over the past few years, China has actually gotten worse on religious freedom, harassing and detaining pastors and Christian leaders, forcing Muslim citizens into "re-education" camps, and tightening its grip on the practice of religion across the board. At the same time that this assault on religious freedom continues, the U.S. and China have entered into a 90-day period of wide-ranging trade discussions, due to expire on March 1, 2019. We must seize the opportunity presented by these trade talks to ensure that religious freedom is addressed in any trade agreement going forward.
That was the focus of discussion at FRC last week in a special panel featuring Bob Fu of China Aid, along with guests Kuzzat Altay (Founder of the Uyghur Entrepreneurs Network), Mrs. Li Ching-Yu (Wife of Li Ming-Che, a human rights activist currently imprisoned in China), Dr. Yang Sen-Hong (Founder and President of the Taiwan Association for China Human Rights), Rev. Hong-Tiong Lyim (General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan), and Doug Robison (President of EXL Petroleum and Board Chairman of China Aid). In that order, they laid out a compelling case for why we must address the human rights abuses currently occurring in China, and why economic issues are an appropriate vehicle to do so.
We heard stories on imprisoned family members, suppression of human rights advocacy, and the church's defense of religious liberty. It was both encouraging and alarming, but these are the testimonies that need to be told. This is what is at stake when we engage with China, such as we are doing now with these trade talks. We must ensure that religious freedom and human rights are addressed as part of these talks over the next few weeks.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.