China is pushing back against the U.S. State Department's annual religious freedom report that highlights the Communist government's persecution of Christians and religious minorities, stating that the U.S. needs to solve its own problems with white supremacist violence.
Bob Fu, president of persecution watchdog group China Aid, told The Christian Post, however, that China is "incorrect" in drawing a comparison between the two issues.
"The Chinese government is directly responsible for their abuses, while the U.S. government is not necessarily responsible for racism," Fu said in an email on Thursday.
"In Charlottesville, racism occurred because a group of white nationalist individuals who are not affiliated with the government acted on their prejudices, and many U.S. officials went on to condemn their actions, demonstrating that this is not a human rights abuse that can be tied to the government," he continued.
"China, on the other hand, implements local and national policies that specifically target specific groups of people and even goes so far as to hold official conferences about how to properly execute these policies. This denotes a direct government responsibility for the abuses."
The 2016 International Religious Freedom Report, released earlier this week, provided an update on the religious freedom situation in 199 countries around the world.
It criticized China for a number of reported human rights abuses, such as one incident in April 2016 in Zhumadian, Henan province, where the pastor of an unregistered church and his wife were buried alive while trying to save their church from government-ordered demolition. While the pastor survived, his wife, Ding Cuimei, died.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying argued in her response on Wednesday that China protects religious freedom.
"The so-called U.S. report ignores the facts, confuses right and wrong and makes wanton criticism of China's religious freedom situation," she said, according to Reuters, adding that America is not "perfect" either.
State news agency Xinhua further commented on the violence at last weekend's rally between white nationalist socialists and Antifa counter-protesters in Charlottesville — in which one protester was killed by a man who plowed his car into a crowd and two police officers were killed when their helicopter crashed — by suggesting that the U.S. is better off dealing with its own problems first.
"Against the backdrop of the recent clash between white supremacists and their opponents, the U.S. accusations against China simply lay bare the double standard it employs," Xinhua argued.
"The violence highlighted the danger of racism, which is a serious problem in a still divided U.S. society," it added.
"Despite its self-proclaimed role as the world's human rights champion, the fact is the world's sole superpower is far from becoming a respected role model in this regard."
The violence in Charlottesville stemmed from a "Unite the Right" rally — which included white supremacists, members of the KKK, and white nationalist socialist groups — held to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park. The event was organized by Jason Kessler, a man who used to be an Obama supporter and an Occupy Wall Street alt-left activist before joining alt-right groups.
The rally participants clashed with Antifa counter-protesters in several scattered street fights. Twenty-year-old Nazi sympathizer James Fields was charged with murder after plowing his car into the counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 others. Fields is believed to have been at the rally with a group called Vanguard America, a self-proclaimed anti-Semitic national socialist group.
Fu told CP that unlike China, however, the U.S. is not trying to deny its problems.
"Another key difference is that America does not attempt to cover up catastrophic events within the country, and our allowance of worldwide reporting on occurrences like Charlottesville is how China knows of the racial tensions in America in the first place," he said.
"In the meantime, news of China's human rights abuses is often given to foreign reporters by individuals who risk a great deal of safety to share the information," he added.
"Additionally, when race-driven violence occurs, U.S. officials are typically quick to publicly denounce them, while Chinese officials insist that their human rights abuses do not occur, despite plenty of eyewitness evidence to the contrary."
Other reports have also exposed the significant levels of religious persecution in China, such as a Freedom House initiative released in March.
Freedom House said at the time that 100 million people, belonging to various faith groups, including Roman Catholics and Protestant Christians, face "moderate" or "high" levels of persecution under the Communist Party.
"A Taoist disciple joins the order without knowing when he will be admitted to priesthood. Dozens of Christians are barred from celebrating Christmas together. Tibetan monks are forced to learn reinterpretations of Buddhist doctrine during a 'patriotic reeducation' session," the report said in its examples of persecution.
"A Uighur Muslim farmer is sentenced to nine years in prison for praying in a field. And a 45-year-old father in northeastern China dies in custody days after being detained for practicing Falun Gong."