Humanists UK calls for freedom of religion or belief in China

17 January, 2019

The National Congress of the Communist Party of China, pictured in 2012

In recent months and years, China has increased its crackdown on religion, resulting in extreme human rights abuses and an unprecedented attack on minorities who have been quietly practising their religion as part of their everyday lives. Now, in a new report, the charity Open Doors, says 50 million Christians in China are expected to face some sort of repression in 2019 on the grounds of religion.

Humanists UK has called for all citizens’ freedom of religion or belief to be guaranteed by the Chinese state, which has been under Communist Party rule since 1949.

As part of its agenda to control organised religion, the state has passed laws that regulate and prescribe forms of religious expression.

Reports suggest China has particularly targeted Christians and Uighur Muslims, among other minorities, with a reported five million Muslims having been imprisoned in re-education camps where forced labour is common.

Alongside this disturbing news is reports of widespread attempts to eliminate religion; from banning the Bible to bulldozing churches.

Last year the International Humanist Ethical Union (IHEU)’s Freedom of Thought Report, which ranks countries’ treatment of non-religious people and states’ commitment to ‘freedom of thought’, ranked China as ‘brutally repressive’.

In China, expressing core humanist principles on democracy, freedom, and human rights is ‘brutally repressed’ by authorities. Furthermore, ‘it is illegal to register an explicitly humanist, atheist, secularist or other non-religious NGO or other human rights organisation as such groups are persecuted by authorities’. The report also states: ‘Surveys have found China to be the most atheist country in the world, yet its rulers lack respect for basic human rights.’

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented: 

‘Humanists advocate for freedom to be non-religious and also the freedom of all people to practice their religion without causing harm to others.

‘As humanists, we campaign for a fair and just world, including a secular state that treats everyone as equal regardless of religion or belief. We believe in the right to freedom of religion or belief which is enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

‘Humanists wholeheartedly condemn China’s appalling treatment of its citizens and its attempts to strip people of their rights to practice their religion.

‘Any country which brutally represses individuals on the basis of their religion or belief is extremely dangerous and we distance ourselves greatly from any state purporting to carry out these abuses, whether motivated by religion or not.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at or phone 020 7324 3078.

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At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and campaigning work, we’re committed to creating a fair and equal society for all.