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A State Department official singled out China on Wednesday as one of the world’s worst offenders of religious freedom, saying it backslid the most last year as thousands more people of faith were subjected to imprisonment and forced labor.
The accusation by Sam Brownback, the ambassador of international religious freedom, represented the latest salvo in an exchange of recriminations between Washington and Beijing. In recent months, tensions have grown as the two countries have sparred over the coronavirus, Hong Kong, press freedoms and trade. China has accused the United States of hypocrisy amid nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd and other African Americans who have died in police custody and the Trump administration’s response to massive demonstrations.
The State Department used Wednesday’s annual Report on International Religious Freedom to increase the crescendo of criticism of China, which has been designated a “country of particular concern” on religious freedom since 1999.
Asked which country had fallen behind in religious liberty in the past year, Brownback immediately named China but implicitly acknowledged that the United States has had a lot of harsh words for China these days.
“Maybe it sounds like a broken record,” he said. “But China is such a big player in this space, in such a negative way, that it’s hard to overlook. And they’re an exporter of their ways and their technology. If they weren’t an exporter, if they just did it to their own people, which is terrible in and of itself — but that’s one you just really can’t take your eyes off of.”