religious policies of the state

The CCP’s policy towards religion in the reform period has offered limited protection for individuals’ right to believe in and practise religion, while regulating religious activities and controlling religious organization. Within this broad framework, various branches of the government and Party at all levels have issued regulations governing religion, forming a comprehensive web of restrictions on religious sites, professionals, activities and foreign involvement.
China’s top leaders set the government’s broader policy orientation towards religion. The initial reform-era policy platform sought to reverse the radical anti-religion policies of the late Mao era and to establish a framework for accommodating certain religious beliefs and practices while preserving control over religious organization. The regime’s authoritative statement on religion was issued in the CCP Central Committee’s Document 19 (1982), which affirmed that as a complex social phenomenon, religion would endure for a long time under socialism. The document recognized five world religions (Buddhism, Daoism, Catholicism, Islam and Protestantism), and laid out a policy of permitting ‘normal’ religious activities within venues under the supervision of resurrected Mao-era ‘patriotic’ religious organizations (see patriotic covenants; Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM)). The document also unveiled a strategy to co-opt religious elites and utilize them to retain control over religious groups.
The rapid growth of religious activity throughout the 1980s, culminating with the spring 1989 violence and the demise of Communism in Eastern Europe, triggered a conservative backlash in religion policy. In February 1991, the CCP Central Committee and the State Council jointly issued Document 6, which promulgated new rules and restrictions on the registration of religious venues and professionals, and also called on provinces and municipalities to issue their own regulations. Continued religious growth and increasing resistance to official manipulation prompted a new focus on compelling religious groups to refashion their doctrines and identities into conformity with CCP rule. This new emphasis was promulgated in a November 1993 speech by President Jiang Zemin, in which he called on authorities to ‘take active steps to guide religions in a direction compatible with socialist society’. Jiang reaffirmed all of these components of religion policy in a speech at a major conference on religion in December 2001, in which he underscored the state’s policy of containing religion’s influence in society, actively guiding religion’s development into conformity with CCP rule, and suppressing religious elements that resisted state control.
To achieve the state’s policy objectives, government and Party branches from the national level down to the municipal and district levels have issued regulations on religion. Broadly, regulations require venues for religious activity to register with the government and to submit to annual inspection. All religious clergy must receive government authorization before conducting religious activities. All religious activities must be presided over by a government-authorized professional, and must occur within registered venues.
Religious groups must submit all religious materials to the government for inspection. The production of any religious materials requires prior government authorization. Foreigners are forbidden from establishing religious organizations, recruiting adherents or conducting any other missionary activities. Members of the CCP are prohibited from believing in religion, or participating in any religious activities. Regulations typically offer vaguely worded but ominous penalties for violations.
Chen, Weiwei (1993). ‘Jiang, Li Peng Meet Delegates’. Beijing Xinhua Domestic Service (FBIS-CHI-93–214).
Katz, Paul (2003). ‘Religion and the State in Post-war Taiwan’. In Daniel Overmyer (ed.), Religion in China Today. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 89–106.
Potter, Pitman (2003). ‘Belief in Control: Regulation of Religion in China’. In Daniel Overmyer (ed.), Religion in China Today. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 11–31.
Spiegel, M. and Tong, J. (2000). ‘Documents on Religion in China: Central Government Policy’. Chinese Law and Government 33.2.
JASON KINDOPP

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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