Resolution Adopted by the CCAR

RESOLUTION ON RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN CHINA

Adopted by the Board of Trustees
June, 2001

Background

In China, minority groups have historically been either assimilated or annihilated as a means for unifying China - a diverse country currently with over 90 minority groups. Today, the Han majority has taken this concept to heart. Added to this are the efforts at suppression by the Communist Party, buffeted by the economic change that created social and political tensions, which people use to organize their identity outside the control of the government.

Religious minorities particularly have been targeted. Religious and ethnic harassment and persecution have increased in the past two years. The U.S. State Department and human rights groups like Amnesty International have issued reports of torture, wrongful imprisonment, and other inhumane treatment of minorities. The People's Republic of China has enacted criminal legislation that the China Daily, the government's official newspaper, hails as a 'powerful new weapon to smash evil cultist organizations, especially the Falun Gong.'

This brutal crackdown by the Chinese government on ethnic and religious minorities, including Falun Gong members, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, and underground Protestant and Catholic churches is in direct violation of the fundamental freedoms of religion, speech and assembly as outlined in the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights. China's already shrill campaign to discredit the Falun Gong spiritual group has reached new intensity, with the strongest accusations yet that the group is colluding with Western forces seeking to vilify and destroy the nation. Despite widespread arrests and harassment of members, with thousands shipped to "re-education through labor" camps, large numbers have continued practicing Falun Gong.

Constantly informed by our history of oppression, we strive to always remember our commitment to "love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Leviticus 19:34)" According to our Torah, we must be the champions of the stranger, in remembrance of our own oppression. While we as North American Jews are not faced with the oppression of being a stranger, we must continue, as we promise in our Passover seder, to fight for the rights of others who are.

A central lesson of our history is the evil that results when people of good conscience stand by while others are persecuted because of their religious beliefs and practices. Throughout its history, the CCAR has spoken with vigor and clarity against religious persecution and for religious freedom in the United States and everywhere else in the world.

PERSPECTIVES FOR CHANGE

The Chinese legal system does not protect human rights from state interference, nor does it provide effective remedies for those who claim that their rights have been violated. Some have argued that only increased engagement can, in the long run, open China to the political and legal change that is indispensable to the expansion of fundamental freedoms, including religious freedom. Others respond that increased engagement and normalization must be dependant on improvements in China's human rights record, particularly religious freedom.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has called for a firmer American government response to religious persecution in China, and to document, respond to, and deter persecution.

There is also a need for U.S. companies to protect their workers' rights of free association and assembly by discouraging the presence of the military, and compulsory political indoctrination in the workplace. Bringing China into the world market - conditional upon the adherence to several human rights measures - will enhance transparency and advance human rights.

THEREFORE, the Central Conference of American Rabbis resolves to:

1) Call upon the Government of the People's Republic of China to:

  1. end all persecution, including that of members of religious and ethnic minorities,

  2. release from wrongful imprisonment Tibetan Monks, Falun Gong practitioners, and all other victims of religious and ethnic persecution,

  3. allow individuals freely to pursue their personal and religious beliefs and practices, and

  4. ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to abide by the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

2) Call upon the People's Republic of China to begin with those steps recommended by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom:

  1. China must agree to establish a high-level and ongoing dialogue with the U.S. government on religious-freedom issues.

  2. China must agree to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

  3. China must agree to permit unhindered access to religious leaders, including those imprisoned, detained or under house arrest, by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and respected international human rights organizations.

  4. China must provide a detailed response to inquiries regarding a number of persons who are imprisoned, detained, or under house arrest for reasons of religion or belief, or whose whereabouts are not known but who were last seen in the custody of Chinese authorities. The Department of State, after consultation with human rights and religious groups, should compile a detailed list of such prisoners of conscience and make specific inquiries to the Chinese government.

  5. China must release from prison all persons incarcerated for religious reasons.

3) Urge that Congress fund rule-of-law programs, such as training and exchanges of lawyers and judges, seminars in how to deal with religious workplace challenges and to apply international legal and labor norms.

4) Require that admission of China to the World Trade Organization (WTO) be made be made conditional on taking significant steps towards the elimination on religious persecution in China.

5) Urge that U.S. companies be required to develop a code of conduct for the protection of their workers' rights of freedom of expression, assembly, association, and religious practice.

6) Support coalitions that speak out for, and keep the public spotlight on, the abuses against the Falun Gong practitioners, Uighur Muslims, and Tibetan Buddhists, underground Christian churches, and other religious and ethnic minorities in China.

7) Encourage rabbis to work in interfaith coalitions to raise awareness of the plight of religious liberties in China.