Giving Compass' Take:

• Nina Shea discusses China's crackdown on religious and spiritual groups that the government views as threats to the communist regime. 

• How can funders work to protect the rights of people of all faiths in China and around the world? 

• Read about the history of the persecution of Muslims in China.

Chelsea Sobolik: Can you give us an overview of the human rights situation in China over the past five years?

Nina Shea: Since the cultural revolution, religious tolerance has waxed and waned, though never has there been religious freedom as we know it in the United States. Sometimes persecution has been very bad, like right after Tiananmen Square, and sometimes it’s eased. In the last two or three years, it’s taken a reverse turn to the point where I fear for the continuation of Christianity in China. It was on the trajectory of being one of the world’s largest Christian communities. And now, I’m wondering if it can survive as a true Christian religion at all.

CS: What accelerated that change over the past few years?

NS: I think that there was a growing boldness on the part of President Xi and his determination to get control of Christianity. At one point, Christianity was said to have more members than the Communist party, and they were viewed as a challenge to the single-party Communist state. They don’t want any ideological competition or anything independent of their control. They want to control organization, speech, and association, so they didn’t like the fact that Christianity was blossoming exponentially and largely doing so outside government control.

We’ve seen Beijing crackdown against the Falun Gong, an indigenous Chinese spiritual exercise movement. The group claimed to have had about 30 million followers. They were completely crushed inside China in the 1990s. China is quite capable of using the most brutal means to crush movements it doesn’t like, whether political, religious, or cultural.

CS: How is that playing out right now?

NS: We’re now seeing extreme levels of crude repression again directed against the Uyghur and Kazakh Muslims of China. A million Muslims have been confined to indoctrination camps [located in] the desert in western China. They are tortured, psychologically abused, and enslaved. They can’t leave, and they have no due process. They’re forced to renounce their belief system and act in a way that’s contrary to it, by being forced to drink alcohol and eat pork. China is ready to use the most brutal means, but they are reluctant to do so to a large extent with Christians because Christians have a stronger tie to the West and to countries with large markets, particularly the United States. They are more in the spotlight. Instead of using the most iron-fisted means toward Christians, China will turn to more restrictive regulatory and big tech measures to pressure its Christian communities.

Read the full interview with Nina Shea about religious liberty in China by Chelsea Sobolik at Hudson Institute.