Jubilee Campaign Hosts United Nations Human Rights Council Side Event: “China Bans Faith for All Children”

On October 5, 2020, human rights and religious freedom NGO Jubilee Campaign hosted their side event to the United Nations Human Rights Council 45th Session, titled China Bans Faith for All Children. This event, which featured both expert speakers as well as survivors of persecution in China, seeks to inform international activists about China’s violations of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child with regards to the rights to religious freedom. Among special guests were Emilie Kao of The Heritage Foundation, Bob Fu of ChinaAid, Peter Irwin of Uyghur Human Rights Project, Elfidar Iltebir of Uyghur American Association, Sean Lin of Falun Dafa D.C., Kai Müller of International Campaign for Tibet, and two victims of persecution in China.

Article 14 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) stipulates that “States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and that “States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.” Despite these protections, however, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has consistently violated children’s rights to freedom of religion or belief, and China’s Christian, Tibetan Buddhist, Uyghur, and Falun Gong children continue to face persecution and harassment in virtually all aspects of their lives.

In addition to violating Article 14, the Chinese Communist Party also violates Article 13 on the right to freedom of expression as well as Article 30 on the rights of cultural, ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities to “enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practise his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language.”

Please see below some notable quotes from our event:

“In school, students were taught that holding religious beliefs was strictly forbidden and that we were to only believe in the CCP. If our religious affiliations were discovered, we would receive punishment from the school. When my father was arrested for his Christian faith and leadership, I faced unkindness and discrimination at school from teachers. Government officials threatened my dad that he if he did not cooperate with them, they would hire gang members to come to my school to beat me up. They also told him that I would not be able to go to college as I would never pass the political screening because I come from a Christian family. This threatened my religious freedom, personal security, and my educational rights.”Enoch, survivor

“It became even more clear that I was being unlawfully punished for two reasons- that I am a Christian and that I taught kindergarteners materials based on the Bible. I believe that the Chinese government felt that my status as a Christian and a teacher was a threat to the ideals of atheism and nationalism that the CCP promotes and prefers to be taught in classrooms across the nation.”Esther, survivor

“We have heard clearly today that China has derogated its international human rights conventions that it signed onto, its other obligations within the international framework. We must as an international community continue to hold China accountable for the atrocities. I mentioned earlier that clearly the evidence shows that China has been engaging in gross and systematic abuses. It has been engaging in genocide, as we heard from our speakers, related to the Uyghurs; it has been engaging in efforts that clearly are in violation of human rights standards and we call upon the international community to prevent China’s acceptance of its narrative and instead to review and to recount all these communities that have been suffering.”

Ann Buwalda, Executive Director, Jubilee Campaign

“Article 14 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that “State Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” China’s constitution in article 36 also protects the right of children to seek religious belief, and it guarantees non-discrimination on the basis of religion. And yet the reality – as we will hear today – in China is far different. The government’s overlapping network of national, provincial, and local regulations censor religion from every part of a child’s life from the public square to literature, media, and social media, to school and even in the home.”

Emilie Kao, Esq., The Heritage Foundation

“For the first time since the Cultural Revolution of Chairman Mao in 1960s, Chinese children are forced to renounce their faith in public by the Chinese Communist Party. Otherwise, the teachers will lose their job, the principals will not get a promotion, and certainly this will impact the so-called duty of the public security officers in charge of these educational schools.”

Bob Fu, President, ChinaAid

“Thirdly, again contextually, there’s a lot going on in the region but what we found in UHRP’s position and increasingly the position of the Uyghur community and also people overseas is that what’s happening is genocide. For example, a letter that was released last month – it was signed by 35 genocide prevention groups and individual experts – said these measures meet the threshold of acts constitutive of genocide or international crimes under the Genocide Convention. Now, this includes arbitrary detention and internment camps, political indoctrination, forced disappearances, destruction of cultural sites, political indoctrination, disproportionate rates of prison incarceration, and coercive birth prevention campaigns and policies.”

Peter Irwin, Senior Program Officer, Uyghur Human Rights Project

“As China took millions of men and women, young and old, starting with students, teachers, scholars, artists, journalists, and doctors, it tore away at the fabric of Uyghur society. Then we heard the children were stolen away too into a world of concentration camps under different labels: state-run kindergartens, boarding schools, and orphanages. These are hundreds of thousands of children separated from their parents by force, taken away from the family environment, away from happiness, love and understanding, and forcefully placed into strange facilities run by a state intent on destroying them, their familial bonds, their language, their religion, their culture, their identity, their world.”

Elfidar Iltebir, Secretary, Uyghur American Association

“Under the systematic crackdown in mainland China, countless children of Falun Gong have lost their parents, academics, freedom, even all their living conditions and dignity just because their parents’ or their own belief in and pursuit of Falun Gong. These poor children are like broken-winged angels who have been ravaged by the black hands of the CCP and been deprived of their gorgeous life. So they are struggling to survive under the cold rain and live a life of fear, cold, starvation, and bullying.”

Sean Lin, PhD, Survivor

“For example in 2018, rarely so, but they do report it, Chinese state media reported that underage students in the Tibet Autonomous Region must not take part in religious activities during their summer vacation according to school regulations. The Global Times, the state-run newspaper, said that notices have been sent to both students and their parents while authorities have had students sign an agreement that they will not take part in any form of religious activity during the summer vacation, and so forth. While we do not know what kind of punishment waits for those who do not comply with such regulations, but on a regular basis we hear of such bans for schoolchildren, which of course is against international norms.”

Kai Müller, Executive Director, International Campaign for Tibet

Please click here to view Jubilee Campaign’s UN HRC side event, China Bans Faith for All Children.