Olivia Enos’s lecture at the Christianity & National Security Conference, 2022.

Olivia Enos discusses Christian persecution in Hong Kong, North Korea, and the persecution of the Uyghurs in China. The following is a transcript of the lecture.

Christianity & National Security Conference 2022 – Olivia Enos Transcript 

Well thank you everyone for having me here today. I’m so delighted to be here, particularly to speak with so many college students. As Mark referenced, I spent the last 10 years working at the Heritage Foundation and only recently… this is actually the end of my first month on the job. I’ve been working at the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong. But I’m here specifically to speak about human rights issues in Asia and kind of what inspired that advocacy and my own interest in these issues started in my junior year of college at Patrick Henry College. And so I know how formative these years can be, because for me I took a course that was on the negative impacts of communism worldwide. Very fascinating course. It gets a little bit unusual to be offered on college campuses these days, perhaps. 

Um, they had us read this fabulous book called the Black Book of Communism, and the book went through every region of the world and documented the ways in which Communism was eroding freedom and liberty and the tactics that governments used in order to do that. And for me, Asia stood out really prominently in that study. I mean, obviously you covered Soviet Union, you covered a lot of different issues. But China featured prominently. Vietnam, Cambodia…  

And then I think you know out of all of them the one that stood out the most to me was North Korea. And I think at that time I was so shocked because I had made it all the way to my junior year in college and I didn’t know that there were people in political prison camps. I thought that political prison camps were something that had been relegated to the history books. And I found out that they weren’t, um, and this was absolutely shocking to me because I’d spent a lot of my formative years… when I was in the third grade I first read Anne Frank: Story of a Young Girl, and everything that happened to the Jews during the Holocaust had always stood out. Had always arrested me. And I was so shocked to find out that that was continuing to exist today. Sorry.  

I remember thinking to myself, shouldn’t these issues, political prison camps in particular, shouldn’t they be relegated to the history books, and if they’re not relegated to the history books, shouldn’t conservatives or more importantly Christians have an answer to these and other human rights challenges? And of course the answer is yes. So these thoughts, these formative books, the articles, the studies that I was exposed to and even since my time in college, the many incredible people that I’ve been exposed to have really inspired the work that I do and had made me want to counter authoritarianism and I think it’s given me a desire to be a voice for the voiceless and to apply my talents in service of people who can’t be up here on this stage and speaking for themselves. 

And I think that it left me asking questions as I was nearing the end of college about where does the call to defend human rights come from? When we’re looking at scripture in particular, and I think it’s all over scripture, I… I think it’s really hard to ignore. But there are three things that I wanted to highlight in particular. I think a call in scripture to defend the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant is really abundantly clear whether you’re reading through the Psalms or Isaiah or even in Jesus’s ministry Himself.  

And I think secondly there’s this very clear call to safeguard the spaces for religious practice that exists, that even more than safeguarding the religious practice. I think we as Christians should expect to face persecution for our faith and shouldn’t be shocked when we see other Christians all across the globe facing persecution for our faith, which then calls us to act in defense of them. And I think the clearest call in scripture actually comes straight out of Genesis 1, when you have this very clear elucidation of what it means to be human, that we’re all made in the image of God and when governments and individuals seek to destroy the image of God in man, it’s… it should feel impossible for us to stay silent and feel as though we can just sit out of this one because we share in that Imago Dei. We share it as image bearers of God in that inheritance. So these days, I think we see so many governments that are amazingly ignoring the image of God and man at times, even seeking to destroy the very image that is of God in man and they do so in the name of power and gain. 

I could have chosen a lot of different regions of the world to… to work in. And I think, um, you know, we see a lot of governments outside of Asia. I mean, the first that’s coming to mind is Russia and Ukraine, right? Now, and the way in which they’re violating human rights, but for the remainder of our time together, I want to highlight three situations in Asia specifically that I think really merit and demand our attention. 

So the first is in the Chinese context in China. And I want to cover two particular people groups in China. One, the Uyghurs who I think many of you may be familiar with, and second the Hong Kong people. The Hong Kongers. And then, um, the third subject that I want to cover is North Korea, generally, um, and then I want us to spend the remainder of the time talking about not just what governments can do to alleviate the plight of people in both China and in North Korea but also what we as Believers can be doing in our own lives to hopefully try to seek to alleviate their play. 

Okay. So first I want to give an overview of why the Chinese government maybe engages in the human rights violations that we see them engaging in today. Um, I would argue that some of the most severe human rights violations of the 21st Century are being committed in China today. And I’m shocked at how little awareness there is about the severity of the crisis that is there. And I think the reason why you’re seeing the Chinese Communist Party engaging in these types of behaviors is because they feel that they have to violate human rights in order to achieve their core objectives as a government.  

There’s a fabulous book out there called China’s Search for Security by Andrew Nathan and Andrew Scobell. I read it in grad school in Georgetown. I commend it to everyone to read. But they argue in this book that China’s core objectives. The CCP’s core objectives are one, to maintain internal security or stability and two, to safeguard their own sovereignty and so the regime views the violation of human rights as a means to an end to ensuring domestic stability and to making sure that the Chinese vision of sovereignty is ultimately carried out.  

I think this is why you’ve seen such severe targeting of the Uyghurs, the first group of people that I really want to touch on, um, today. Just for some, like, general awareness and facts, there’s over one million people inside of political re-education camps in China. That’s over one million-some people think that it may be as many as three million people inside of these camps, so the scale and scope of this is absolutely massive. They are not just interning people inside of these concentration-like camps. Um, Adrian Zen is a fabulous researcher.  

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation has documented that in certain regions of Xinjiang, which is where most Uyghurs reside, they have a specific goal of forcibly sterilizing between 80 to 90 percent of Uyhgur women of childbearing age. You imagine if they successfully carry that out, that’s eliminating the next generation of Uyghurs. That’s like future genocide in the most tangible terms possible. Beyond this, uh, we see the Chinese Communist Party subjecting not only Uyghurs but also Tibetans and others to forced labor both inside of the camps and also outside of the camps through forced labor transfer programs. There are estimates about this that suggest that it’s several hundred thousands of people who are subjected to forced labor on a regular basis. And unfortunately, I mean thankfully the U.S. government has taken some action to counter this through the Uyhgur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which was incredibly important legislation, but there are still so may goods that risk potentially entering U.S. markets or at the very least global markets that may be produced with Uyghur forced labor and name-brand companies that are still using Uyghur forced labor.  

The CCP has attempted to literally tear families apart limb by limb and they do this by, for example, sending children to live in kindergarten so they’re separated from their parents at a very early age. And of course, people are separated from their parents because their parents are sent outside of Xinjiang to other parts of China, where they’re subject to forced labor. And of course, as I mentioned, many adults in particular, although there have been some kids too who have been sent to these camps and so they’re trying to… to tear apart the Uyghur family unit because they see their family as… as potentially a threat to the CCP, which I think is… is truly horrifying. TO give a vivid example of this I have a dear friend, her name is Zeba Morat. She’s Uyghur American. She has a young daughter who’s about four years old. Zeba’s mother Gulshan Abbas has been held in these camps for the past, I think, three or four years. Years. She has never been able to hug her granddaughter Sabina. She has never been able to meet her in person, so even here this is affecting U.S. citizens who are Uyghur who are separated from their family by the borders, all because of the Chinese Communist Party interning them. 

The U.S. government made the right decision when, on the last day of the Trump Administration, they determined that what Uyghurs are facing constitutes ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity. It absolutely is, and I think it’s important that people understand what the definition of genocide actually means. Genocide means intent to destroy in whole or in part an entire people group. Intent to destroy. And I think the intent to destroy is so obvious, not just from the camps but as I mentioned by trying to destroy future generations of Uyghurs. And I think when you have intent to destroy a whole people group, you have intent to destroy the image of God in man. And so that calls us to action. 

Okay, so we’ve covered the Uyghurs. I’ll transition a little bit to talking about the Hong Kongers, or the people of Hong Kong. And we all watched, I think, on our TV screens as millions of people took to the streets in Hong Kong in defense of their liberty. We saw those millions of people taking to the streets because there was legislation being proposed by the Legislative Council in Hong Kong that would permit extradition of Hong Kong citizens back to Beijing. The Hong Kongers saw the early warning signs, the writing on the wall that the CCP was intending to interfere in Hong Kong’s once-enjoyed autonomy through the introduction of that extradition law.  

And unfortunately, they were right, because in 2020 in response to the so-called unrest, these protests were by and large peaceful. The CCP introduced something called the National Security Law, which had a chilling effect not only on civil and political liberties in Hong Kong, but on business communities operating environment there, and led to the mass exodus of several Hong Kongers, many of whom have had to flee to the United Kingdom and to other capitals across the globe. 

While Hong Kong might not be a genocide like we’re seeing against the Uyghurs, it might not have that same sort of visceral response that you have when you see what the CCP is doing to subjugate Uyghurs, it represents the destruction of freedom, and I think it represents what happens when the U.S. chooses to focus less on human rights issues and it’s policy thinking we can wait to address the human rights issues after we have other security or economic concerns under control, and it fails to realize that all of those issues are really interconnected. And today, there’s over 1,100 people who are currently serving time in jail on politically motivated charges in Hong Kong.  

Even just this past week we saw two very well-known and prominent Catholics as well as pro-democracy advocates… Jimmy Lai, who is the founder of Apple Daily, a renowned news source in Hong Kong, as well as Cardinal Sen being put on trial this week and facing yet again, in Jimmy Lai’s case, at least another conviction. And of course, we saw many pro-democracy leaders like Joshua Wong, who is also a Christian, being put on trial. And he has been spending time behind bars, and I think it’s important again to circle back to the point that I made at the beginning which is that the Chinese Communist Party did this because they wanted to maintain sovereignty and they wanted to maintain stability, and they saw the 2019 protest as a threat to both of that… to both of those objectives, and that’s why you had one million people in the streets.  

I think that’s what stands out when it comes to Hong Kong is that the human heart, no matter where we live, what corners of the Earth we’re from… the human heart really beats for freedom and Hong Kong is a reminder that freedom on Earth isn’t always permanent. And I think that this causes us ultimately to long for eternal freedom, where freedom is secured. I think this is one of the reasons why the Hong Kong cause has resonated with so many here in the U.S. and all across the globe. And it’s also a reminder of the consequences, as I mentioned before, of de-emphasizing human rights when we’re trying to craft foreign policy as professionals. 

Okay. The third subject I want to cover is that of North Korea hardship. Out of China. There’s so much to cover in China. I probably could have spent the whole speech just talking about that, but I wanted to start the section on North Korea with a brief story. Um, there was a North Korean woman who tried to escape North Korea on four separate occasions. Her name is Miss Hyana Ji. On one occasion when she was sent back, I guess the Chinese are involved in this, she was sent back by Chinese authorities back to North Korea because they engaged in forcible repatriation of North Korean refugees. She was discovered to be pregnant. When her pregnancy was discovered, she was sent to a police station where she was forced to have an abortion without any anesthesia at all.  

Miss Ji had tried to flee North Korea for… on four separate occasions and was finally successful, thankfully, on the fourth occasion, but she had tried to flee in part because she was a Christian and because she was facing persecution under the Kim regime. I think there are a few regimes that are more clearly anti-Christian than the Chinese one or than the North Korean one, but in her case being able to operate as a Christian was next to impossible and forced her to do unspeakable things. The Kim regime actually sees Christianity as a direct threat to their rule and reign, and some of this has to do with the, um, fall of the, uh, Iron Curtain, the fall of Communism. 

After the Soviet Union, where many of the protest movements that led to the eventual falls of say, Ceaușescu and Romania, for example. A lot of them were incredibly peaceful, and they were faith-driven movements. So Kim Jong-Un rightly recognizes that faith could pose a threat to his rule and to his reign. The systematic policies that the regime puts in place, I would argue to abuse and to exploit their people, they view as if not par with, pretty close to equally important as the possession of their nuclear program, and their weapons program because they view the human rights violations that they carry out as necessary to maintain their grip on power.  

And just to give a couple of examples of this, the regime has a brutal policy called the three generations policy where if one individual in the family is found guilty of a so-called political crime, which could be simple as not having dusted the portrait of Kim Jong-Un that’s mandatory on every person’s wall. Then not just that individual but three generations without individual’s family can be sent to the political prison camps. This is insane. It’s crazy. But it’s happening today. And they further strengthen their reign by engaging in things like public executions. In fact, I was watching a video today of a North Korean refugee who had recently escaped, and he said that he saw his first public execution at the age of nine. You can imagine how shocking this would be at nine years old to see somebody, uh, publicly executed for a political crime that the regime deemed unsafe. Um, this is really horrifying.  

This can result in purging of leadership. It can result in somebody being publicly executed for a political crime, but we’ve also heard reports of people being executed for the mere possession of a Bible. That’s how threatening the regime views Christianity to its reign. The regime goes even further, and I did mention this a little bit in passing. By attempting to replace God with Kim Jong-Un. It’s part of the reason why everybody has to have a portrait on their wall, uh, that is deifying him within their home. There’s even… there was this Netflix documentary and forgive me, I… I’ve forgotten the name of it, that specifically was doctors providing cataract removal surgery and every single person who received the surgery as soon as they could see went up to the portraits on the wall and thanked Kim Jong-Un for the surgery, so these people actually do believe at a certain level that Kim Jong-Un is a deity that he provides for them because they’ve been so indoctrinated by the Kim regime. And that’s their goal. 

What is going on in North Korea is incredibly severe and I could go into a whole lot more details about this, but when a commission of inquiry report was conducted by the United Nations in 2014, they determined that what North Koreans are facing constitute atrocity, crimes of the level of crimes against humanity. There are so many issues that I debated raising, but I felt like the two situations in China and in North Korea were really emblematic of the immense needs of people in Asia who demand not just our attention but also our prayers.  

In Q&A I’m happy to address some other issues. I… I, at Heritage I worked very broadly, so I also worked on Burma, Cambodia, religious freedom, refugee issues, democracy and governance, which I’m happy to touch on. But I think it’s really hard to hear about all of this suffering if we don’t feel like we’re equipped with answers or potential responses that might help to actually alleviate their plight.  

So for the next section, and this should be very brief, I just want to touch on what governments and in particular the U.S. government can do to address their plight. And then I want to end on what we can do as Christians, um, specifically to keep these folks in our thoughts. First, um, we should be engaging in very severe and systematic sanctions, targeted sanctions, ideally against those who are responsible for undermining human rights in Asia. We have tools that can be used. One in particular is the Global Magnitsky Act. That is very powerful. It enables us to target both individuals and entities for engaging in severe human rights violations. And these sanctions are very helpful, not just as a signaling mechanism but as a means for financially holding accountable perpetrators of ongoing violations, which I think is very critical. 

The second is that we should be looking for routes to provide refugee relief and assistance to people who have the ability to leave these countries. There’s one tool in particular called Priority to Refugee Status, that enables people to bypass referral from UNHCR and NGOs from embassies in order to enter directly into the U.S. refugee system to be considered and determine whether their claim is meritorious, for them to be resettled here in a free land in the U.S., and this could apply for Uyghurs, this could apply for Hong Kongers, and arguably for North Koreans as well. 

The third, and I mentioned this in the context of Uyghurs, one of the most powerful things that the U.S. government has done over the last several years was to say that there is ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs. It’s absolutely critical, but we don’t have a similar determination for North Korea. And while the UN said that crimes against humanity are happening, we need to have the U.S. government look into whether it’s not just crimes against humanity, but is it also genocide that North Korean people are facing? The reason for this is that the atrocity determination for Uyghurs generated a lot of follow-on action. We saw this in the form of the Uyghur forced labor prevention act, and otherwise… and I think a similar atrocity determination could build momentum that we need against for North Korea and for the officials that are there. 

The fourth is to continue tackling forced labor. That means making full use of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, making sure it’s actually enforced but also making sure that we’re enforcing the rebuttable presumption that also exists against North Korea to try and make sure that not a single good produced with forced labor in North Korea or China makes its way in U.S. markets, where you and I could inadvertently be supporting the regime.  

And then fifth and finally, and… and I would say this, um, this one should go kind of in tandem. We should be pressing for the release of every single political prisoner, there should not be a single meeting with Chinese counterparts or any sort of diplomacy with North Korean counterparts where U.S. officials are not raising these issues directly, and raising individual political prisoners by name and saying they should be released. And I feel like we often stop at pressing for the release of political prisoners, but we should be looking… be looking for ways to not just have the release of the prisoners, but have the eventual closure to these political prison camps and political re-education camps. And anytime that we’re engaging in diplomacy, we should be thinking about… what does the Chinese government want? What does the North Korean government want? That wouldn’t compromise U.S. policy. That could result in the closure of these camps, which honestly are carrying out pure evil. 

Okay. That’s the end of the government stuff. Now, what can you do, um, about this? What can… what are some things that Christians can do, um, and I have three here. One, um, pray. I think, uh, when you read an article that really touches your heart or really draws on you or convicts you, um, you should listen to that and you shouldn’t just say wow, gosh, that’s really awful. But what’s happening? But pause for a minute and pray. Um, I think people… people feel remembered in prayer. You don’t know, like, the extent and the power of prayer. I think it’s become, so… you know, people say it’s cliche to say oh, thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers, especially after gun violence or other things. But as Believers, we know the power of prayer. We know that God is at work in these corners of the world. And so, I think going to the Lord in prayer and asking for Him to change situations, to change hearts and minds, even to pray for Kim Jong-Un and Xi Jinping that they would have a change of heart, that we would see just differences and that He would raise up generations of Believers that can facilitate change in these countries. 

Second, and I think this one is a little… is… is pretty tangible too, um, befriend local refugees and survivors of authoritarian regimes. Um, I almost feel selfish in saying this, because I personally have benefited so much from the friendship that I have. I mentioned Zeba and her story earlier on in this conversation, and Zeba is one of those dear friends that, I think, I will know for the rest of my life. I don’t that she benefits so much from my friendship as I have benefited from hers. But I’m telling you, there are so many people, particularly in the DC area, who have resettled here, who are looking for friends. And I met Zeba during the middle of the pandemic. She had recently moved to the DC area from Florida, and she told me, like, I talked to people and I brief people all the time, but actual friendship has been really hard to come by, so just remember that friendship is one of those ways that you can meaningfully change somebody’s life, and I think that’s really just the application of being a good neighbor to those whom the Lord has put in your path. 

The third, uh, way that you can facilitate change is to think of ways that you can give of your time, of your talent, and your treasure to the cause of human rights. One thing would be to I… identify where the organizations that you can donate to financially when you’re… you know, in jobs in the future that you can support who are doing good work on these issues. But for some people who are in the audience today, they might not just want to donate their… their finances. Theu might actually want to donate their… their talent, and I would just say I encourage you to look for ways to be active even in your future jobs that get… aren’t immediately related to human rights issues. I was really surprised, actually, to find out when I first started doing the human rights work that, for example, in State Department it’s not considered the most prestigious job to work on the human rights issues. Typically economic or security issues are a little bit more prominent, and so a lot of students in undergrad, grad, and also in their master’s programs are pushed in that direction, but that means that there is a demand for good talent that is devoted to thinking creatively about how we can apply the incredible power of the U.S. government to try and help people who otherwise don’t have voices, that can’t speak for themselves.  

So I’ll end it there. I’m happy to answer any questions about the different subjects that I covered and also to talk about career-related questions that you all have. But thank you for having me today. It’s really… really a joy for me to be here. 


Question: Foreign University, uh, so I just wanted to ask… you mentioned in just those five items that governments can do sanctions being one of the main things, but is there, uh, since we’re at a National Security Conference and we’ve talked about how America’s power should be used to preserve global order and cause justice to be done and protect the innocent, um, is there a certain point at which sanctions disarming up and we have to use force?  

Answer: Oh yeah, that’s a great question. Um, I would say in most of the contexts that I’ve worked with, force hasn’t become necessary in the North Korea context. If you were to have, of course, some sort of attack or you thought there was an imminent attack, of course force would be necessary. And this is one of the realms where I think there is actually an overlap or a need for more attention in military planning, what if you have the collapse of North Korea not necessarily by external force but, you know, you have an internal… who, or you have something happen that led to instability on the Korean peninsula. In that instance our military needs to have plans in order to be able to rescue people from the political prison camps. Because, as we know during Nazi Germany, a lot of people, um the… the Germans wanted to just bomb the camps, to destroy the evidence. You also have to think about if there were to be a North Korean collapse, the ingrained perceptions that people have of both South Koreans and Americans.  

I mean, I… I’ve heard from North Korean friends and other experts in the field that, for example, students in their elementary schools when they’re taught how to learn math are taught, like, subtraction and addition by saying, like, what happens if we kill X number of American troops or X member of South Korean troops, what’s the answer to this equation? People have it in… ingrained in them that South Korea doesn’t care about the North Korean people, that the U.S. doesn’t care about them, and in a collapse scenario where the first responders would be South Koreans and Americans, you have to have information that’s already gone into North Korea, your average person, who can understand and say okay they do have my best interests at heart and not try and fight.  

So I think that there are a lot of military plans that are short of force that are there. The other example, of course, would be, and I’m sure some of the speakers, because I saw the list, maybe some of them were addressing issues related to China, and of course, a lot of people are worried about Taiwan, and if there were to be some sort of military, uh, takeover in that instance, of course you would need to engage in that case. It’s a difficult situation but there are some, like, specific regulations that I think would prompt the U.S. to engage in… in those cases. And I would say that would be in defense of democracy which is pretty, like, human rights-forward type of… of a conflict. Um, but year, I would say in general for most of these like, I… I wouldn’t say that it would be good to do a preemptive strike, for example, to liberate Uyghurs from the camps or something along those lines as… as wonderful as it sounds to let all the captives free, I think the costs are quite high for their conflict like that. So yeah, great question. Thank you. 

Question: Hi, uh, Jonathan Dean Francis. Thank you for the work you do. It’s good to hear some of it. I’m curious. You’ve talked a lot of the sort of Chinese press policies to their focus on security and sovereignty. I’m just sort of curious how that functions in the history, in sort of recent Chinese history, whether that’s a long-term goal they’ve had. I’m thinking for instance of how, uh, through the Premiership of Deng Xiaoping up through there was a real emphasis on economic prosperity, which caused a sort of, you could say liberalization. That’s probably not the right word, um, and of course we’ve seen that sort of top bolt in as Xi Jinping’s career so far, especially this month where WHO’s faction was forcibly removed. And yeah, I saw the New York Times reported that there was a real emphasis on security just this month specifically. So I’m curious, in your opinion, do you think that’s a bit of security long-term goal, trying to sort of, or always had, or are we seeing a sort of change in their approach to international politics right now? 

Answer: Yeah, like I said in the book, trying to search for security, they seem to identify it as a fairly long-term goal I mean obviously this book was written in the context of Xi Jinping and his reign, but I would argue that any sort of attempts to strengthen China’s economic prosperity is still essentially internally focused. Like we see China, you know, especially during the Deng Xiaoping era engaging externally, but they were engaging externally in trade for the purposes of their own enrichment and growth. And so I think that, um, and this is an interesting comment that has come up, um. 

Earlier this year, when I was still at Heritage, my boss and I traveled to Europe and we were talking to Europeans about a lot of the risks to their own supply chain of continuing to engage with China. They’re very heavily leveraged in the Chinese space, particularly in the auto industry and one of the comments that kept coming up is that, um, whether or not we’re thinking about decoupling and that’s a much longer conversation. The Chinese already are, and so for the Europeans, this is particularly dire because they are over-leveraged in this space. And so, whether we’re choosing to disengage or not, they may already have plans in place to do so and again to me, that proves that the CCP is out for its own goals, its own aims and in this way, and I… I think it’s worth noting this.  

The CCP may have different methods than other governments but most governments are acting in their own interests. My realism is, like, showing here, but um, most governments are acting in their own interest. And so, I don’t think it’s at all surprising how they allocate resources in the ways, in which they act. Um, and this comes up also in the context of North Korea, because a lot of people will say, oh well, isn’t Kim Jong-Un just crazy? Not only he wants to maintain his own power and that’s like the aim of most leaders… he just has really brutal ways of doing it, and so, yeah, that’s the concern. Thank you for your question and I saw you had one as well. 

Question: Um, hi. My name is Sage. I’m from Baylor University. And, uh, thank you, just, for your clear statement of the governmental side of this issue. And what we can do on the governmental side, um, you can tell me if this is correct, but the impression I have is that a lot of the problem is that American businesses and businesses in general are not willing to or even able to extract themselves and their business from China. How would you see… what hope do you have or not, um, to what extent are we relying on a change in that area? 

Answer: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think I’ve been a little bit surprised at how, and maybe I shouldn’t be… maybe I should just have woken up to the realization that, like business, you know, for good or for bad is motivated by profit, um, and so a lot of the decisions that they make are rooted in that, um… I’ve been surprised at how little, um, a lot of especially large multinational companies but also global multinational companies have been unwilling to condemn Uyghur forced labor, but some of them have taken some important steps and a lot of those have been prompted by the shifting of risk as a result of Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.  

I think sometimes it requires government intervention for companies to realize that the behavior they’re engaging in is fundamentally illegal. It is illegal, and it absolutely should be illegal in every corner of the world to enslave people to exploit other people for profit, and so I think that the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act has already started to do that. I have some concerns especially given the Biden Administration’s somewhat wishy-washiness and its commitment to countering China, that the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act will be enforced to the full measure of the law, and that there’s enough resources to do so because the… by demonstration in particular has a competing interest in cooperating with China on climate.  

I’m sure that beam has come up from other speakers but I think, uh, I think at the end of the day, like, we as advocates and private citizens should be continuing to press no matter whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat that the law is being forced, um. I don’t… I… and I think the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act was proof positive that unfortunately we couldn’t wait on the business community to make the right decision. And that’s why government action was necessitated, I think. There are other situations where businesses hopefully will make a different decision, but one other sort of sad anecdote related to the business community. And I’ll end here for this question. Um, is that, uh, um, there’s an upcoming memories…  

There’s an upcoming financial conference, um, in Hong Kong that is next week… it’s being hosted by the chief executive, which is the equivalent of the president, um, in Hong Kong, and the leaders of almost every top American bank are going to that conference. Um, uh, our group, uh, put the committee for freedom in Hong Kong put out an ad actually, today in the Harvard Crimson and actually lit up, um, for projections on… on Wall Street, um, listing the names of the executives that were going to attend this conference. And I think given the deteriorations you’ve seen in liberty in Hong Kong, to pretend that it’s just business as usual is… is pretty frustrating. Especially when I think American historically through its foreign policy is… sought to defend freedom and liberty where it’s under threat. So hopefully, business executives will wake up and if they don’t wake up China’s economy isn’t doing so hot. So maybe they will decide that as things deteriorate there, that they have more than one reason to disentangle a little bit. 

Question: Hi, Olivia. My name is Joey. I’m from Patrick Henry College. I saw your speech here. Thank you so much for your thoughts. Um, I just wanted to hear a little bit more of, like, uh, the effectiveness of sanctions because whenever I’ve heard about it, it’s always been in the context of like, oh we’re posturing and it’s like a political action so obviously if there’s something wrong, like a moral humanitarian wrongdoing, then it’s right that the United States takes a stance and says this is wrong. But at the same time, like, China and North Korea are not necessarily countries that we want to provoke and we’re trying to maintain, like, at least a semblance of a good relationship with them. So in your opinion, what is a prudent way to proceed forward like, at a governmental level to condemn wrongdoing and still having, like, a good relation… good relationship? 

Answer: Yeah I… I mean I think North Korea and China are both really clearly adversaries, so I feel like the question of whether or not we want to offend them comes up less frequently when considering sanctions. Um, the thing that does come up is, like, uh, what if you’re hurting the people more than you’re actually hurting the individuals who are carrying out the human rights violations? And this is where I like to highlight that there’s a distinction between the sanctions that were instituted in, like, our parents or grandparents’ generation versus the ones that get instituted. Now the ones that are instituted now, um, generally target the individual, the bank accounts of the individual that you’re trying to hold accountable or the entity that you’re trying to hold accountable. And then, uh, even beyond this, um, it also restricts them from traveling, um, particularly to the U.S., but also most, uh, most transactions in the world are dollar-denominated, especially credit card transactions. 

And so it can actually substantially hamper ability to act. So I think that the sanctions are really important, um, and in the North Korean context in particular, one of the consequences of the sanctions program have been a lot of unintended consequences, like the fact that the regime has to work quite a bit harder to find the resources to fund its nuclear program and its missile program. And so I think that makes it very powerful, um, to engage in that type of economic warfare, if you will. So I don’t know… I don’t worry as much about offending, um, like North Korea and China. I think more about how can we hold them accountable.  

And one other thing I will add is that when Global Magnitsky sanctions first went into effect, and this is outside of the Asia region, I remember I attended a meeting where they talked about Global Magnitsky’s effectiveness, and they said, um, they levied a sanction against – I think it was a Peruvian government official, and that official was immediately removed from his post. That’s a pretty powerful consequence of sanctions. I feel like people don’t talk about that enough, because it doesn’t always achieve the objectives we think that they will, like the full denuclearization of North Korea, for example, has not yet been achieved through sanctions, but the unintended consequences I think continue to maintain and make a strong case for sanctions. It’s a powerful tool, yeah, you think I saw it. Yeah, you had a question. 

Question: Well, hello. I’m Victoria from Westminster College. Um, so particularly about what you were saying with the Uyghurs and separating the families and like, um, that is… I found it well, very sad but interesting. Um, but I know in the, like, later 1800s American missionaries went to China to particularly, to like build up the families. Would this be something that would… I know China’s changed a lot since then, but would it be something that still would be helpful to the Chinese people, or are we kind of beyond that being much of a… yeah. 

Answer: I… that’s a great question, I think. Um, there is amazing work being done in the underground Church in China, in particular, that needs to continue, um… this work is critical not only for just reaching the souls of people who otherwise might not come in contact with the Gospel but also for providing them with the type of community that I know at least has been essential for, like, me and my husband here in DC. I think for so many people, Church community is… it gives you a sense of belonging. It gives you accountability mechanisms. It is just an incredible go-to place and I think when they’re suffering it’s really helpful to have missionaries.  

That being said, I have spoken in the past with people who used to serve as missionaries in the Xinjiang region and many of them have had to leave because the people that they had contact with would automatically be sent to political re-education camps, and so I think the way that we share the gospel has to get savvier, and in the Christian context we might need to start thinking about some of the more subversive ways that we’ve been engaging in getting the Gospel in it, to like North Korea, for decades where it was a much more closed information environment.  

I didn’t put this in my list of recommendations, but ensuring continued access to information is an absolutely critical lifeline to people in authoritarian and closed regimes. I know in the North Korean context, the smuggling in of USBs, especially through informal markets and at the border area has been really critical. A lot of gospel tracks have been brought in in that way using radio to share the Gospel, because sometimes you can turn it, tune into short wave then medium wave radio broadcasting even in North Korea. It’s very dangerous to do so, but a lot of people will do it because they need the encouragement of the Gospels.  

I think thinking about ways that we can do that, and that we can make sure that we’re staying on the cutting edge like this is something I worry about in Hong Kong too. Right now it’s fairly open but even just this past week we were hearing reports that, uh, a… another Hong Kong organization, Hong Kong Democracy Council, their website was blocked in Hong Kong. You can only access it through a VPN now, I mean so that’s a closing environment for information and so I think that members of Congress and even, you know, ingenious private citizens who are thinking about applying technology in new ways can apply their ingenuity to ensuring that even if they’re minimal spaces, that they stay open for the few people who can actually access that so yeah. It’s a great question.