A high-level delegation of American religious leaders, hand-picked by the white house and approved by Beijing, which is touring China does not include American Muslims and will not visit Muslim regions or meet Chinese Muslim representatives, although its official mission is to assess the state of religious freedom in the communist country.
The mission, agreed to by the Chinese and US presidents Jiang Zemin and Bill Clinton last October, began on February 10 on a three-week tour of the communist State that would not take them to the Muslim regions, where the worst religious persecution is taking place. Their tour is deliberately confined to Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Chengdu, Lhasa in Tibet and Hong Kong whe they are meeting with officials and religious leaders other than Muslims.
The delegation consists of a Jewish leader, a Roman Catholic leader and an evangelical Christian leader. They are: Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an obscure group which purports to promote religious tolerance in the world, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Newark and the Reverand Don Argue, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
The exclusion of American Muslims from serving on the mission is a deliberate snub, not only to Muslims in America, but also to Chinese Muslims. It is an affirmation that Islam has no presence in the US - a blatant lie, if ever there was one and a sinister cover-up of the persecution of Muslims in China. This is particularly true when a Jewish leader is appointed to serve on the delegation when there is hardly any presence or persecution of Jews in the communist State.
Religious persecution in China has emerged in the US as a hot issue of ‘human rights’ mainly as a result of strong campaigning by an alliance of evangelical Christians and other religious groups (Muslim ones not invited), ‘human rights organizations’ and supporters of the Dalai Lama.
The decision of the Chinese and US leaders to send the mission is aimed at defusing these campaigns and not at investigating abuses. Neither the serial adulterer in the white house nor the communist dictator in Beijing have any interest in protecting religion. Both, however, hope that this sop to American religious groups will be enough to allow the recent political and economic ‘strategic alliance’ between Washington and Beijing to flourish.
The Chinese government in fact denies that there is any religious persecution in the country and angrily dismisses the charges levelled by American religious groups. It claims that 14 million Protestants and Catholics worship in the State-approved churches and describes leaders of what it calls ‘underground churches’ as criminal elements.
Significantly, the Chinese authorities have allowed the mission to visit Tibet, an unprecedented decision - a reflection of its belief that a delegation of Jewish and Christian leaders would not kick up a fuss over the mistreatment of Tibetan Buddhists especially if discreet silence would serve western and Israeli interests.
Both the US and European Union countries are determined to maintain good relations with what they consider to be a future economic giant. Washington has also been courting Beijing for political reasons, hoping to block the transfer of Chinese technology to Muslim countries, particularly Iran. In fact, both Clinton and secretary of State Madeleine Albright have publicly praised Beijing for giving in to American pressure to suspend sale of missiles to Tehran.
As an inducement to Beijing to co-operate, and in an effort to defuse any local opposition to the growing Sino-US ties, Washington has even resolved to improving China’s image in the world. For instance, the US State department’s annual report on human rights issued on January 30 described China as taking a ‘somewhat more tolerant’ attitude towards dissent. A year ago, the report asserted that ‘all public dissent against the party and the government was effectively silenced.’
Only two weeks before the State department hailed the improvement in China’s rights record, the Chinese authorities executed scores of Muslims in East Turkestan (Xinjiang Province) accused of spearheading the uprising there a year ago in which hundreds of people had died.
In fact, the report came out at a time when the Chinese security forces were engaged in rounding up hundreds of Chinese Muslims, not only in East Turkestan but also in Beijing itself, under the pretext of preventing bombing raids allegedly planned to coincide with the uprising’s first anniversary (February 5), and the Lunar New Year holidays, which began on January 28.
In a transparent attempt to create a climate of fear, a convenient cover for arrests, the Ministry of Public Security issued a notice ordering a full-scale alert in the Muslim region and Beijing. The notice will continue to be in force into the first week of March even though the holidays and the anniversary passed without incident.
The American religious mission will, like the State department report, ignore this persecution of Muslims or ‘terrorists’ as Washington and Beijing see them.
Muslimedia: February 16-28, 1998