WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - A new U.S. congressional report is confirming increased and intensifying persecution of Chinese Catholics in the wake of the 2018 China-Vatican agreement.
The report issued on Wednesday by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China found that "After the PRC [People's Republic of China] Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed an agreement with the Holy See, local Chinese authorities subjected Catholic believers in China to increasing persecution by demolishing churches, removing crosses and continuing to detain underground clergy."
"In spring 2019, authorities detained three underground priests of Xuanhua diocese in Hebei province," according to the report.
World scholars and international civil rights groups have described religious persecution in China during 2019 to be of an intensity not seen since the Cultural Revolution, according to the report.
The report found that Communist officials have "doubled down on the 'sinicization' of religion — a campaign that aims to bring religion in China under closer official control and into conformity with officially sanctioned interpretations of Chinese culture."
"Observers and Catholic believers expressed concern that the agreement did not provide sufficient support for the Chinese Catholic community, with one scholar pointing out that the authorities' persecution of both underground and official Catholic communities has actually intensified over the last year under the 'sinicization' campaign," the report found.
One of the report's recommendations to Congress is for members to advocate for "the right of Catholics to be led by clergy who are selected and who conduct their ministry according to the standard called for by Catholic religious beliefs."
The 2018 agreement was signed while a crackdown was already being inflicted on Catholics and followers of other faiths by the Chinese regime.
Every day in #China, Christian #churches are demolished, attacked & desecrated, ransacked & ruined!! #genocide #extremism #intolerance #ChristianPersecution #ReligiousFreedom #ReligiousRights #FaithUnderFirehttps://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/chinese-officials-loot-church pic.twitter.com/oYhc8wz6g0— Dova International Charities ✝️ (@ChristianPersec) January 9, 2020
The Chinese government's treatment of other religious communities was also documented in the report.
The Commission "believes Chinese authorities may be committing crimes against humanity against the Uyghur people and other Turkic Muslims" in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the country's far West. Estimates place "one million or more Uyghurs" in internment camps, with reports of forced labor.
"Security personnel at the camps subjected detainees to torture, including forced ingestion of drugs; punishment for behavior deemed religious; forced labor; overcrowding; deprivation of food and political indoctrination," the report noted.
There was evidence of "the use of electric shocks and shackling people in painful positions" in camps.
Communist authorities have also reportedly set up "a pervasive and high-tech surveillance system," including cell phone monitoring and biometric data collection methods (fingerprinting, voice recordings, facial recognition cameras) of members of ethnic minorities who threaten the state.
The Catholic World Report pointed to legislation the House and the Senate have passed to provide more reporting to the federal government on the human rights abuses committed against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and the transfer of technology used to enable mass surveillance.
The two bills must be reconciled before a final vote to send the legislation to President Donald Trump's desk, which members of the commission promised would happen this year.
The 2018 China-Vatican agreement on the appointment of bishops offered official Vatican recognition of the Communist-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, attempting to unite it with the persecuted underground Church — but has instead led to increased persecution of the latter by the government.
The agreement was signed in Beijing by deputy foreign ministers representing both sides and was described by the Vatican as "the fruit of a gradual and reciprocal rapprochement" that would be subject to periodic review.
The #PersecutionofChristians will escalate in China in 2020 with new rules that usurp religious freedom with total submission to the "State". #genocide #extremism #intolerance #ChristianPersecution #ReligiousFreedom #ReligiousRights https://t.co/i0r0Nq5ReD pic.twitter.com/iAubcSfsC7— Dova International Charities ✝️ (@ChristianPersec) January 2, 2020
But the deal was denounced by many critics as a sellout to the Communist government. "They're [sending] the flock into the mouths of the wolves. It's an incredible betrayal," Cdl. Joseph Zen of Hong Kong predicted at the time.
"The consequences will be tragic and long-lasting, not only for the Church in China but for the whole Church because it damages credibility," the cardinal added.
The deal was negotiated, in large part, by former disgraced cardinal and accused pederast Theodore McCarrick, who had close ties to the Communist Church in China.
The report's time frame covers human rights in China from August 2018 to August 2019.
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China was established by Congress in 2000 (when China was set to enter the World Trade Organization) in order to report on human rights in the country and to maintain a database of political prisoners. Representative James P. McGovern (D-Mass.) serves as its chair and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) serves as co-chair.
The number of Catholics in China is estimated to be more than 10 million, according to the report, with official statistics indicating that 6 million Catholics are part of the state-sanctioned Church.
Although the China-Vatican agreement was to undergo "periodic review," Vatican officials have been silent on the post-accord treatment and persecution of Catholics in China.