flagsWritten by Don Byrd

[UPDATE: Via Religion Clause, President Obama “stressed the need for China to protect religious freedom for all of its citizens” during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to the White House readout.]

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is urging President Obama to raise religious freedom concerns during his upcoming trip to China for the G20 summit. The State Department has for several years designated China as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its religious freedom violations. The USCIRF is urging the President to be even more vocal about these issues while he is there, especially because of the problems seen in Zhejiang Province, where the Summit is taking place.

Here is an excerpt from the USCIRF press release:

Zhejiang Province is home to a large Christian population. Ahead of the Summit, Chinese authorities cited “safety concerns” to close churches in Hangzhou. They also banned religious activities in hospitals across the province, and reportedly warned underground house churches to cease conducting so-called “illegal” activities.  Since 2013, as part of a campaign targeting “illegal” structures,” the government destroyed more than 1,500 crosses, along with some churches. In other parts of China, the authorities have discriminated against and, at times, violently suppressed, Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists, and harassed and imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners.

The Commission also asked President Obama to raise religious freedom concerns in Laos while he is there on the same trip:

“As the first U.S. president to visit Laos, President Obama has a unique opportunity to raise directly religious freedom concerns with the Lao government,” said Chair Thomas J. Reese, S.J. “While Laos has myriad human rights challenges, especially troubling are the policies and decrees at the central and local levels of government that restrict religious practices and undermine not only the Lao constitution but also international human rights standards.”

The Summit takes place this weekend.