During the current 45th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, the ERLC advocated for the religious freedom of children in China. The ERLC joined the Jubilee Campaign and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in issuing a written statement to the UNHRC. The joint statement condemns the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for its continued religious persecution of children in China.
How is China persecuting children?
Over the last decade, China has increased its persecution of religious minorities. In its efforts to “sinicize” religious belief, that is, subjugate religious belief to the demands of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese government is attempting to erode independent practice of religion altogether. Sadly, children in China are not immune to such persecution.
Since releasing its Regulation on Religious Affairs in 2017, China has escalated its suppression of the religious liberty of Chinese children. Following the CCP’s Regulations on Religious Affairs, Chinese government officials have prohibited minors from attending any “religious-based activities.” They have enforced this by forcing children away from religious activities and interrogating them for holding religious beliefs. Government authorities are also confiscating Bibles and religious literature.
Two years ago, the CCP closed kindergartens because they were founded and operated by churches. In 2019, Chinese authorities stormed a Catholic mass in Zhengzhou and forced out all of the children. Police monitored the church for weeks to ensure no children, including infants, attended mass. Chinese police also entered a Guangdong province house church camp last summer and arrested the preacher. The police interrogated the church members and registered the names of all children in attendance.
Last August, the Xiaodian District Civil Affairs Bureau raided the Bethany Home for Children with Disabilities and sent the children away to state-run orphanages. The Home, founded by a Catholic nun, was the only home the children have known.
In addition to these heinous actions, the CCP continues to persecute the Uyghur people, separating Uyghur children from their families and placing them in state institutions.
What does the U.N. Human Rights Council say about religious liberty?
The CCP’s religious persecution directly violates Article 14 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides the international framework for freedom of religion or belief for children. Article 14 declares that, “States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” Additionally, China is violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 18 of the ICCPR states, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”
What actions should the United Nations take?
The ERLC, the Jubilee Campaign, and ADF strongly condemn China’s persecution of children. We urge them to end all government actions that deny children the freedom to practice their religious beliefs. Specifically, China must immediately repeal the 2017 Regulations on Religious Affairs as it unjustly restricts the religious freedoms of religious minorities in China.
The U.N. Human Rights Council must speak clearly about these abuses and condemn China’s failure to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Council has a number of tools at its disposal to address these issues and must take action. Such action will be more difficult because of China’s recent election to the U.N. Human Rights Council, but this makes Council action even more crucial, to preserve the legitimacy of the Council itself.
ERLC intern Justin McDowell contributed to this article.