The International Journal of Human Rights 22(4) pp 503-524
This article examines religious freedom in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) using critical frame analysis of state and civil society organisations’ (CSOs) policy discourse associated with the United Nations (UN) Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The findings show how indigenous Chinese CSOs’ input to the UPR is limited. Their voice is muted, some merely mirror the rhetoric of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In contrast, international CSOs are highly critical of what they see as state failure to uphold religious freedom. The analysis reveals a significant disjuncture between the policy discourse of international CSOs and the CCP. The former’s discourse is framed in terms of: denial of rights, imprisonment, legal failings, (re-)education, torture, and persecution. In the absence of enforcement mechanisms, CCP input to the UPR can be seen as part of a process of legitimation and performativity; allowing the ruling elite to afford primacy to what it dubs ‘a framework of socialism with Chinese characteristics’ at the expense of religious freedoms.