The event at Catholic University was set against the backdrop of the recent 70th anniversary of Communist Party rule, which many human rights advocates used to highlight the long history of oppression in China.
For decades, the Chinese Communist Party instituted a coercive "one-child policy." While the cap has now been increased to two children per family, reports of forced sterilizations and abortions have continued.
Chinese president Xi Jinping has also embarked upon a comprehensive campaign to bring religion in China under the control of the Communist Party. In 2016, he gave a speech at the National Religious Work Conference, where he explained his demand for the "sinacization" of religion, or the effort to make religion conform with Chinese culture and the CCP party line.
Under the Chinese "Regulations on Religious Affairs" that were implemented beginning in February of 2018, "unauthorized" religious teachings have been effectively banned in China.
Government officials believe that freedom of religion "threatens their power," Chen said, and so the regime has undertaken a brutal crackdown on religion.
Chen also called the 2018 agreement between the Holy See and China to regularize the state-sanctioned Catholic Church and grant the Communist Party a say on the selection of bishops a "bad agreement," but said that "it's still hopeful for Catholics in China."
Last month, during the recent meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, the U.S. co-hosted an event on "The Human Rights Crisis in Xinjiang," along with Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. A Uyghur survivor of Chinese re-education camps, along with an advocate and a family member of a Uyghur detainee, testified on the brutal imprisonment, torture, and mass surveillance of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, ethnic Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
Over one million individuals in the region are estimated to be detained by Chinese authorities, and some estimates are as high as three million detainees. There have also been reports submitted to the United Nations' China Tribunal detailing organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners and other political and religious prisoners.
Regarding the religious freedom abuses, the "CCP propaganda machine denies all of these things," Chen said, but "despite massive censorship" by the government, many Chinese "know the truth," including the Hong Kong protesters.
Chen also accused the Communist regime of practicing despotism at home while trying to whitewash its human rights record abroad.
"The CCP is extending its fingers around the world. It is trying to influence democratic countries, especially western governments," he said, citing the purchasing of U.S. radio stations, putting up of advertisements in Times Square, buying of stock to influence U.S. media companies, and having officials pose as businessmen to influence politicians.
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Chinese government-sponsored Confucius Institutes are being set up on college campuses in agreement with college administrations, purportedly as a way for American students to learn more about Chinese culture. These institutes, Chen said, are meant "to control what people see about China on American campuses," he said. Colleges "sign contracts that limit what is said about China."
Yet despite the regime's human rights abuses, "the Communist Party is not the same as the Chinese people," he said. "I believe in the Chinese people."