Earlier this week, China filed sanctions against two chairs of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). U.S. religious freedom advocates USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin and Vice Chair Tony Perkins were issued sanctions by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) following the United States' condemnation of the ongoing Uyghur genocide in the northeastern Xinjiang province of China.
Despite these sanctions, however, the USCIRF chairs are continuing to advocate for the religious minorities who are the subject of the communist state's abuses.
"USCIRF will not be silenced. We will not stop speaking out against the Chinese government's ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity," USCIRF Chair Manchin said, as reported by International Christian Concern (ICC).
The 73 year old former First Lady of West Virginia has served as Chair of the group of U.S. religious freedom advocates since 2018. In late March, Manchin was appointed by President Joe Biden to fill the position of co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission. The former educator was also previously served in West Virginia's State Board of Education.
USCIF Vice Chair and president of the Family Research Council Tony Perkins, who also received sanctions from the CCP, encouraged the U.S. and its allies to continue to advocate for the religious freedom of the Uyghurs. He said, "We call on the international community, especially U.S. allies who share the same fundamental universal values and principles of freedom of religion or belief and the rule of law, to redouble their efforts and unite in standing up to Communist China."
According to NBC News, Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement defending the U.S. religious freedom advocates, calling the sanctions an attempt to "intimidate and silence those speaking out for human rights and fundamental freedoms."
The sanctions issued upon Manchin and Perkins have prohibited them from entering mainland CHina, Hong Kong, and Macao, and forbid Chinese citizens and organizations from conducting business and organizing any form of exchange with the U.S. religious freedom advocates. These sanctions are China's response to the U.S.'s sanctions on Chinese officials Wang Junzheng, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps secretary, and Chen Mingguo the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau director.
"I feel flattered to be recognized by Communist China for calling out genocidal crimes against religious and ethnic minorities in the country," Manchin told Reuters on Saturday in response to the sanctions she received from the Chinese government. While I don't have plans to travel to China this summer, "I won't stop speaking out when egregious violations of religious freedom are taking place as they are in China."
The Chinese government wants the U.S. religious freedom advocates to "redress their mistakes," warning them that "they will get their fingers burnt" if they continue to attack the Uyghur genocide in Xinjiang, overwhelming proof of which has been widely circulated.
The U.S. started calling out China's genocidal acts against the Uyghurs during the time of former President Donald Trump. At the time, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said "available facts" can easily prove that the CCP is currently committing such horrendous actions.
The British Conservative Party Human Rights Commission also released a report condemning China's human rights violations which are "indicative of genocide." The report, entitled "The Darkness Deepens: The Crackdown On Human Rights In China 2016-2020," showed how the CCP carried out systemic human rights violations against Uyghurs.
The CCP's violations affect more than just Uyghurs. The communist party has also persecuted Christians and Catholics, and people who identify with other faiths such as Buddhism and those who practice Falun Gong, for years.