Written by Don Byrd

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has issued its annual report on the state of religious freedom around the world. And while the report focused as usual on the countries it recommends for particular concern (Tier 1) and the nations it considers the next most egregious violators of religious liberty (Tier 2), the commission this year reserved particular scrutiny and new levels of alarm for China.

Religion News Service reports:

The commission calls for the U.S. government and others across the globe to sanction Chinese agencies and officials for their role in serious religious freedom violations and to urge them to set Uighur and other Muslims free. It also calls for the release of prisoners of conscience, including Muslims, Buddhists and Christians.

“If we were to rate the Tier 1 countries, China would be in a category all by itself,” said [commissioner Gary] Bauer, president of American Values, a public policy think tank. “The level of persecution — they are an equal opportunity persecutor. They go after anybody, any sect that might compete with the communist, atheistic government of China.”

In addition to China, the report recommends Burma, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam as Tier 1 countries for designation as of particular concern. The commission names 12 countries to its Tier 2 list: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, and Turkey.

In addition to its designation recommendations to the State Department, the USCIRF report also recommends that the Trump Administration add a religious freedom advisor position to the National Security Council, and for an increase in the use of sanctions.

You can read the entire report here. The commission’s press release announcing its findings is here