Religious freedom advocates are warning of “catastrophic consequences” after the Chinese Communist Party reelected Xi Jinping as the leader of the People’s Republic of China.
Xi Jinping secured a third term as president of China and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party last week, less than five years after the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party abolished the two-term limit for presidents that had been in place for more than three decades. Xi’s reelection comes as China faces international scrutiny over its treatment of religious minorities and political dissidents as well as its role in causing the coronavirus pandemic that has caused millions of deaths worldwide.
While China has operated as a one-party state completely controlled by the Chinese Communist Party for decades, the nation had expressed openness to implementing market reforms in the latter part of the 20th century, which prompted its entry into the World Trade Organization.
The Chinese Communist Party’s endorsement of Xi’s continued reign has caused concern among religious freedom advocates in the United States, who are convinced that it signifies a step back to the dark days of the Cultural Revolution led by Chairman Mao Zedong and a signal of increased persecution against religious and ethnic minorities.
Salih Hudayar is the Founder and President of the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement, which describes itself as a “nonviolent international political and human rights organization that seeks to restore the independence of East Turkistan to safeguard the freedoms and rights of East Turkistan’s people.” East Turkistan refers to the area recognized by the international community and the Chinese government as the province of “Xinjiang.”
Hudayar also serves as the elected prime minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile, which views Xinjiang as an occupied territory. The East Turkistan National Awakening Movement and the East Turkistan Government in Exile have held multiple protests in front of the U.S. State Department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., calling for the U.S. government to take stronger action to protect the Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group that constitutes a sizable portion of East Turkistan’s population.
Uyghurs have found themselves subject to concentration camps critics maintain are designed to strip ethnic minorities “of their culture, language and religion, and indoctrinate them into mainstream Chinese culture.” As reports of abuse at the camps make international headlines, Uyghurs have also become the victims of forced labor that either directly or indirectly benefits American companies. Hudayar elaborated on his concerns with Xi’s continuation as the Chinese leader in an interview with The Christian Post.
“For the Uyghurs and the people of East Turkistan, this is going to mean that the genocide and the suffering of our people are going to intensify,” he said. Hudayar told CP that part of Xi’s desired legacy involves “Chinese National Rejuvenation,” which he maintained was “going to have catastrophic consequences for non-Chinese people like Uyghurs, Tibetans, Mongols, and others.”
Hudayar said that while the Chinese government has “has always been persecuting the Uyghurs since they [first] occupied East Turkistan back in late October 1949,” the treatment they have received has worsened considerably under Xi: “It wasn’t until Xi Jinping came to power and came up with this achieving the Chinese dream and achieving Chinese National Rejuvenation that Uyghurs began to actually face the wholesale genocide.”
“Prior to that, it was about assimilating us, trying to assimilate us to become Chinese. But after 2014, it was either we become Chinese or we are sent into the camps. We are indoctrinated, we’re tortured, we’re sterilized, we’re raped and we either become Chinese or we die,” he asserted.
Gordon Chang serves as a distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, a “non-partisan, nonprofit international policy council and think-tank” focused on informing the public about military and diplomatic threats. Chang, who has developed an expertise on China, offered a similar analysis of Xi’s reelection in a statement to The Christian Post.
“Xi Jinping is a genocidal monster. He is the most ambitious aggressor in history. The Communist Party has just given him almost unlimited power. He will not stop until he is stopped. Yes, we should worry. Xi Jinping believes that the Communist Party should have absolute control over society and that he should have absolute control over the Party. He will not stop until he achieves both goals,” he warned.
According to Chang, “Xi Jinping is not only implementing the fastest military buildup since World War II, he is also mobilizing Chinese civilians for battle. We do not know what he, in fact, intends to do, but he is marching China toward conflict. And a very dark future."
Bob Fu is the president and founder of China Aid, an “international, Christian nonprofit human rights organization that inspires, informs and invites people to transformative action on behalf of persecuted people of all faiths in China.” In a statement to The Christian Post, Fu declared that “Xi’s precedent-breaking third term makes his nickname ‘Chairman Mao Jr.’ a reality.”
“China officially enters the Maoist 2.0 dictatorial era from decades of authoritarianism,” he added. “Xi’s ruthless ruling style of ‘Great Struggle’ with his ambitious global dominance replace the CCP’s post-Mao agenda of economic reform and Openness since the 1980s. The international community will have to prepare for the continuing acceleration of the worsening record on human rights abuses and religious persecution under Xi’s new Cultural Revolution.”
Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reacted to Xi’s reelection on Twitter by declaring that “Xi Jinping seizing total power is no surprise — he’s a total communist dictator.” Pompeo identified China as “the real threat” that the military needs to focus on.
Concerns about China’s treatment of religious minorities also extend to Christians, who have seen their places of worship raided or demolished if they refuse to comply with the Chinese government’s demands.
Over the weekend, the Vatican announced that it had renewed an agreement giving the Chinese government a say in appointing bishops of Roman Catholic dioceses in China. The agreement comes months after the arrest of Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen for participating in a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong.
This agreement between the Roman Catholic Church and the Chinese Communist Party sparked criticism from Sam Brownback, the former U.S. ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom. Noting that “the Vatican and Beijing have reached an agreement on the appointment of bishops that critics view as acquiescence to China’s growing control of religion,” Brownback characterized the development as a “great disappointment.”
“The #CCP is at war with all Faiths, seeking to eradicate all religion. This renewed agreement happens while Cardinal Zen is on trial on trumped up charges. Confront the CCP, don’t accommodate them!”
Xi will remain in power until at least October 2027, when the 21st National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party is next scheduled to meet.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org