The US Commission on International Religious Freedom's latest report, issued April 29, noted that despite last year's Vatican-China deal on the appointment of bishops, "repression of the underground Catholic Church increased during the latter half of the year."
The commission, known as the USCIRF, is a bipartisan group that advises the President, Congress, and the Secretary of State on international religious freedom issues.
Among the report's inclusion of commissioners' "individual views" were those of Johnnie Moore, who called the deal "one of the most alarming incidents as it relates to religious freedom in the entire year."
"Within days of the Vatican negotiating its deal, the Chinese used it as cover to embark upon the closure of several of the nation's largest and most prominent unregistered church communities," Moore wrote.
Moore believes the Vatican "now bears a significant moral and legal responsibility to help solve the problem which it helped created-albeit inadvertently-by providing China license to viciously crack down on Christian communities (as cited in this report), and by providing the Chinese government further cover to continue its incomprehensible, inexcusable and inhumane abuses of Muslim citizens in the western part of the country."
"While I am entirely for direct engagement on these issues, including with the most severe violators in the world, that engagement must not result in these types of unintended consequences, as has been the case in China. The Vatican made a terrible mistake, which it must take seriously. This debacle must be dealt with urgently and seriously."
April's USCIRF report also highlighted the plight of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China. To date, between 800,000 to 2 million Uyghurs- or about 10% of their population- have been detained and sent to "re-education camps" to be subjected to abuse and political indoctrination.
The report calls on the US government to sanction those in the Chinese government responsible for the detention of the Uyghurs.