“But I can tell you that as you stare at the facts on the ground, conditions have worsened. The capacity for believers to exercise their faith has decreased. It has gone backwards,” he said.
“And so while it is the case that dialogue matters an awful lot, that these conversations are incredibly important and complex, the agreements that are entered into have to actually deliver outcomes that reflect a better situation. This is the kind of thing that we deal with all the time, where we certainly have imperfect solutions, but we never cease our call for what it is that we ultimately know is the right thing to do.”
“The United States is urging countries all across the world to have their eyes wide open with respect to what’s taking place [in China], whether that’s in the freedom that’s being denied in Hong Kong, or what’s taking place now against those who want to practice their faith in Tibet, in Inner Mongolia...We’re watching the deterioration of religious freedom, and each of us has a special responsibility [to address it],” he said.
“I am confident that the Holy See has a truly special and unique capacity to make life better for each of these people who simply want to exercise their most basic human right of exercising their ability to practice their faith,” the secretary said.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, has been an outspoken critic of the China deal. Zen told CNA this month that “resounding silence will damage the work of evangelization.”
“Tomorrow when people will gather to plan the new China, the Catholic Church may not be welcome.”
Along with Zen, Cardinals Charles Muang Bo of Burma and Ignatius Suharyo of Indonesia have repeatedly denounced China’s human rights violations.
Pompeo told CNA that he believes more voices, including those from Rome, should be speaking. “The world, and that certainly includes the Vatican, has a responsibility to speak to that truth, to speak to the reality that’s taking place,” he said.
The secretary added that in his view, the United States and other nations have been making efforts to make change in the region.
Speaking of the United States, Pompeo said that “we have imposed costs on some of those who have been the most egregious violators, we have urged American businesses to ensure, for example, in Xinjiang, that they’re not doing business with those involved in the horrific human rights violations that are taking place there. So we’ve taken a number of actions to prevent these kinds of violations of the most fundamental human rights from taking place.”
Mentioning a forthcoming meeting with officials from Australia, Japan, and India, Pompeo said that his goal is “building out a coalition for freedom-loving peoples all across the world....to continue to defend these most basic rights.”
He said the Chinese Communist Party acts punitively toward countries opposing Chinese human rights abuses by severing or restricting trade relationships.
“We’ve talked to nations in the Pacific - Pacific island countries - who did something the Chinese didn’t like and they stopped sending tourists to their countries. It has a significant impact on their economy. Normal nations don’t do that. They don’t use a brand of punishment diplomacy that impacts the lives of real people.”
Speaking of Taiwan, where the Trump administration has made new diplomatic initiatives by sending both a senior-level diplomat and HHS Secretary Alex Azar in recent months, Pompeo said the island, which considers itself to be sovereign while Beijing regards it as a renegade province, “is certainly part of our effort,” but said “the challenge is so much greater than just any one single theatre, one single tactical space.”
“The challenge and the fight is not between the United States and China. This is a fight between authoritarianism, barbarism, and the rule of law and decency and the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms. That is the challenge that is presented by the Chinese Communist Party, and it’s the one that President Trump has worked so diligently to build out against, to make sure at least for the American people, we’re going to get this right. We’re urging other nations to join us in this challenge.”
“Regimes that engage in authoritarian, totalitarian behavior,” the secretary said, “survive by darkness and obfuscation. And by the moral authorities of the world, those who value the most fundamental freedoms for every human being...that draw attention to those [regimes] ultimately create better lives for people,” Pompeo added.
“What I hope and what I know what the Holy See intends to do is continue to shine the light. That would be the right thing to do, it would be the thing the United States will ask them to do, and I am confident that they will do so. There’s a long history of that within the Church, and I am confident that they will continue to do that.”