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  • 14 Sep, 2022
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CECC holds hearing on Control of Religion in China through Digital Authoritarianism

Washington DC: A hearing on the Control of Religion in China through Digital Authoritarianism assessed the shifting landscape for religious freedom in China and the PRC’s use of digital repression to bolster Chinese Communist Party control of religion. Witnesses addressed the many ways that digital and biometric technologies targeting religious believers in China are applied more broadly for social control, and the potential for like-minded authoritarian states to adopt the PRC’s model of technology-enhanced religious repression.

Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, PRC officials continue to assert far-reaching control over China’s diverse religious communities. As more religious activity and resources move online, especially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, PRC authorities have expanded use of digital tools to surveil and suppress online religious expression. Invasive surveillance technologies track and monitor religious groups and individual believers that authorities deem a threat. On March 1, 2022, new Measures for the Administration of Internet Religious Information Services went into effect, which require a government-issued permit to post religious content online and ban the online broadcasting of religious ceremonies, rites, and worship services, among a host of other restrictions infringing upon Chinese citizens’ freedom of religion or belief.

Rep. James P. McGovern Co-chair, Congressional-Executive Commission on China observed that Sinicization implies that the Party is exploiting religion as a means to impose social controls.

In his Testimony at the Congressional-Executive Commission on China Hearing “Control of Religion in China through Digital Authoritarianism”, Nury Turkel, Chair U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom remarked that ethnic minority regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, in particular, have borne the brunt of the CCP’s technology-enhanced brutality in recent years.

Dr. Emile Dirks Postdoctoral Fellow at The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, pointed out that digital surveillance of practitioners of banned faiths is part of broader systems of police surveillance directed at a range of Chinese citizens viewed as threats to the party-state.

Chris Meserole, Director of Research, Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology Initiative, Brookings Institution pointed out that the Xi regime has  built out a growing legal and bureaucratic architecture for religious repression.

More details here.

By Team TRC