Editor’s Note: Rep. André Carson is the representative for Indiana’s 7th District and one of three Muslims currently serving in the United States Congress. The views expressed here are his own. View more opinion at CNN.
For many years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has violated international human rights through the mass surveillance and internment of more than 1,000,000 Uyghur Muslims, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and members of other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang – a region in the far west of China.
As one of three Muslims in Congress, and someone who has worked to be an advocate for all oppressed people, I believe America has a moral imperative to help end these injustices. President Joe Biden also understands these atrocities cannot go unaddressed and announced that he is withholding diplomatic representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games in response to China’s ongoing genocides and crimes against humanity.
Congress must play a role, as well. That’s why I’m proud that this week, the House and Senate passed, and President Biden is expected to sign, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act to ensure that goods made in the Xinjiang region using forced labor do not enter US markets. These actions are an important step toward accountability and ensuring America lives up to its ideals. I was also proud to join my House colleagues in passing a bipartisan resolution condemning “the genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups” in China.
The details of the Chinese government’s systematic oppression are extremely troubling. The CCP uses internment camps in Xinjiang to expand a practice known as Sinicization – forcing religious practitioners to forego their faiths for prioritizing allegiance to state policies and philosophies. Those detained in internment camps have described forced political indoctrination, torture, beatings, food deprivation, and denial of religious, cultural and linguistic freedoms. What are the alleged high crimes that warrant such inhumane punishment against Uyghurs? Wearing long beards, refusing alcohol or other behaviors that Chinese authorities deem to be signs of “religious extremism.” China has denied all the accusations, calling those camps “vocational training centers” to teach the Uyghurs vocational skills and prevent terrorism and extremism. I dispute that claim.
The Chinese government reportedly continues to also pursue forced assimilation and suppression of Tibetan Buddhists and has ordered crosses removed from and closed the doors to many Christian churches. Disturbingly, there have been allegations (denied by Beijing) of organ harvesting from prisoners – many of whom are believed to follow the Falun Gong spiritual movement.
Religious liberty is a core component of human dignity and a bedrock of American values. For all our political polarization, Americans of all faiths, and no faiths, agree that the free exercise of our spiritual beliefs is a fundamental human right. This is what made America’s democracy such a novel concept more than two centuries ago and changed the course of human history for the better. Unfortunately, religious freedom is being threatened by the CCP’s attempt to push its citizens into a singular, exclusionary and dangerous belief system.
With their economic influence growing among other nations, there is no telling how China may export these harmful policies to America’s shores and throughout the world.
The bipartisan bill the House and Senate passed isn’t the first time we have stood up for Uyghur Muslims. Earlier this summer, we passed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, and it was signed into law because America’s core democratic and constitutional principles to practice religion freely must be unwavering, especially in the face of attacks on religious freedom around the world. This is particularly urgent today for the Uyghur Muslims.
There is still an opportunity to improve our economic and diplomatic relationship with China, but we should do so while strongly practicing our ideals. The United States’ moral authority must be paramount to the economic relationship we have enjoyed, and we must be willing to sacrifice bigger profits if it means ignoring our bedrock principles of freedom and fairness. If America doesn’t stand up for the rights of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and other religious minorities in China, who will?