The US International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998 requires the President—who has delegated this power to the Secretary of State—to annually review the status of religious freedom in each country and designate the worst offenders and others of concern. IRFA was enacted to elevate religious freedom as a higher priority in U.S. foreign policy.
On December 2, 2022, Anthony Blinken, Secretary of State, designated the People’s Republic of China and eleven other countries as Countries of Particular Concern under IRFA. The other countries were Burma, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, the DPRK, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. These countries were seen as “having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
“Our announcement of these designations is in keeping with our values and interests to protect national security and to advance human rights around the globe. Countries that effectively safeguard this and other human rights are more peaceful, stable, prosperous and more reliable partners of the United States than those that do not,” said Secretary Blinken.