The United States on November 13, 2006 announced that it was redesignating China and seven other countries as “Countries of Particular Concern, or CPCs, for Severe Violations of Religious Freedom.”

Announcing this at a press briefing in Washington, D.C., Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, John V. Hanford III, said, “The International Religious Freedom Act requires the annual designation of CPCs where governments have engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” The countries being redesignated this year are Burma, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. An addition to the list is Uzbekistan while Vietnam has been taken off the list “as a result of many positive steps taken by the Government of Vietnam over the last two years.”

Talking about religious freedom in China, Ambassador Hanford said, “We also continue to see arrests, most recently of — they seem to be targeting lawyers who have been representing religious believers who have been arrested even in violation, I think, of the law of China. So it’s — you know, it’s — there is a little progress here and lack of progress there, but China certainly has not made the sort of progress that we need to see in a systemic way to remove them from the CPC list. I look forward to that day and will continue to work for that day.”

The Office of International Religious Freedom has the mission of promoting religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy. It monitors religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, recommend and implement policies in respective regions or countries, and develop programs to promote religious freedom.

The designation of “countries of particular concern” is just one of many tools the U.S. Government uses to address religious persecution and bring pressure on those governments which are responsible. Nations designated as such are subject to further actions, including economic sanctions, by the United States.