RFI President Testifies Before Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on the Case of Bishop James Su Zhimin

July 30, 2020

Thomas Farr, RFI president, testified today before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Co-Chair Christopher H. Smith presided over the hearing titled, “Religious Freedom in China: The Case of Bishop James Su Zhimin.”

The Commission’s hearing announcement provides important context for the statements and exchanges that unfolded:

There is speculation that [Bishop James Su Zhimin, the Catholic bishop of Baoding in Hubei Province who has been under arrest for the past 17 years], recognized as a prisoner of conscience in the TLHRC Defending Freedoms Project, may be dead, as Chinese authorities have requested that the Catholic Church recognize a new bishop of Baoding who is a member of the State-sanctioned Church, presumably pursuant to the terms of a non-public temporary protocol between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China reached in 2018. Religious freedom advocates have expressed concern that this is a test case for bringing to heel members of the ‘underground’ Catholic Church, who do not recognize the legitimacy of the official church.

Commissioner Nury Turkel of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom testified on the first panel. Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute joined Farr on the second panel.

During his testimony, Farr stated:

Until the accession of Xi Jinping in 2013, the Catholic Church in China was in a perilous position. Under Xi’s policies, however, it is in mortal danger of being transformed into an arm of the Communist Party. The Chinese government seeks to control all religions that posit an authority greater than the Communist party and the state.

Building on this theme of Chinese usurpation of the Catholic Church’s authority, Farr went on to say:

…the Vatican’s goal in the accord is to ‘allow the faithful to have bishops who are in communion with Rome but at the same time recognized by Chinese authorities.’ That is, once again, a devil’s bargain. There is absolutely no reason to believe that Chinese communist officials will approve bishops who will be true heralds of a faith that runs so contrary to their own ideology. The quest for unity among China’s Catholics cannot be realized if it depends on the cooperation of a regime that seeks in effect to destroy Catholicism in China by making it an arm of the state.

China’s assault on the Catholic Church’s institutional religious freedom is a key aspect of the country’s worsening landscape of religious repression and persecution.

Read Farr’s oral testimony.

Watch the hearing:

Learn more: