July 31, 1992
I write to express the support of the U.S. Catholic Conference for the provisions of S.2808, the United States China Act of 1992, with particular reference to the matter of religious persecution and the detention of religious leaders.
At least since 1989, the year both of Tiananmen Square and the attempt by Catholic bishops to form an episcopal conference, Chinese authorities have dealt increasingly harshly with the churches not under state control, both Protestant and Catholic.
Over this period, some twenty bishops and numerous clergy, religious and lay leaders have been subjected to one or another form of arrest, detention, or harassment. There are credible reports that two quite elderly bishops who died in recent months had been subjected to brutal treatment. Close observers report that China is presently engaged in its toughest crackdown on religion in years.
Despite these reversals in the human rights area, we acknowledge that the picture is not entirely bleak. There are some indications that the Chinese leadership may be tending toward a more acceptable and realistic approach to religious belief and practice, due partly to the principled pressures exerted by international bodies.
We believe that this bill, extending to the Peoples Republic of China renewal of nondiscriminatory treatment providing certain conditions are met, and specifically those of ceasing religious persecution and releasing leaders and members of religious groups detained, imprisoned, or under house arrest for expressing their religious beliefs can be an important further step in the direction of assuring religious liberty to all in China.
Thank you for considering these concerns.
Rev. Drew Christiansen, S.J.