Tuesday, February 24, 2004

China (2): Freedom of "normal" religion.

Date: Tuesday 24 February 2004
Subj: China (2): Freedom of "normal" religion.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


FREEDOM OF "NORMAL" RELIGION.

In October 2003 the Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB) of the City of Qingdao, China, promulgated its "Policy and Regulations with regard to Banning Secretly-Established Christian Gathering Places".

Qingdao is a major costal city in the province of Shandong. While this is a local document, it is based on the official policy of the Chinese Communist Party and would therefore conform to national standards.

The RAB policy is divided into five sections:
I) "The Communist Party's basic view and policy on the issue of religion"
II) "Freedom of religious belief enshrined in the Constitution"
III) "Laws and regulations concerning religion"
IV) "Harms of secretly-established gathering places and self-claimed preachers"
V) "Several proposals on dealing with secretly-established Christian gathering places".

The document makes it quite clear that freedom of "normal" religion is protected by the constitution and by law. In section III point 1 the term "normal" is clearly defined as registered. "Through registration, the society may distinguish abnormal illegal activities from normal religious activities conducted at religious sites."

Section I, points 7,8 and 9, establish that it is the purpose of the Patriotic Church to act as a "bridge" linking the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to the church, so the CCP can "channel religion", thus "safeguarding the social stability". Section II point 3 states that patriotic believers are an "efficient barrier" of defence, protecting China from foreign interference, infiltration and invasion.

Section IV describes "self-claimed preachers" (preachers not recognised by the CCP) as law-breakers who "greatly impede the implementation of the religious policy". It is alleged that "self-claimed preachers" set up their illegal religious sites in order to collect money, raise issues, create factions, seduce believes into wrongdoings, and to establish more secret gathering places. They also "conduct superstitious activities, distort religious teachings, spread heresy, and instigate believers to turn from registered religious sites to secretly-established gathering places, thus disrupting normal religious activities". They also provide illegal sites for criminals and facilitate the activity of cults.

Finally, section V opens with the statement, "Secretly-established Christian gathering places and self-claimed preachers must be banned." It then gives procedures to deal with, and if needs be punish, those participating at various levels: 2. the ignorant, 3. the nominal, 4. the devout, and 5. the leaders.

The following is the full text of the RAB document.

- Elizabeth Kendal
rl-research@crossnet.org.au

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"Policy and Regulations with regard to Banning Secretly-Established Christian Gathering Places."

Religious Affairs Bureau of the City of Qingdao.
October 2003.

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I. THE COMMUNIST PARTY'S BASIC VIEW AND POLICY ON THE ISSUE OF RELIGION

1. Religion has a process of origination, development and extinction. And it will exist in the socialist society for a long period of time. Therefore, we may neither extinguish nor develop religion by administrative means.

2. Freedom of religious belief is protected by the Constitution. People enjoy freedom to believe in religion, and freedom not to believe in religion.

3. We shall publicize atheism. However, we cannot equate the difference between theism and atheism to the political confrontation. We need to adhere to the principle of cooperation in terms of politics, and mutual respect in terms of faith.

4. The government shall administer religious affairs according to law, protect normal religious activities and religious people'slegal rights, and deter criminal activities conducted in the name of
religion.

5. Contradictions with respect to religion in our country are mainly the ones from among the people. However, under certain circumstances confrontations might occur. Therefore, we need to strictly differentiate and carefully handle contradictions of two different types of essence.

6. The principle of self-running the church shall be adhered to. Foreign goodwill religious exchanges shall be conducted on the basis of equality. Infiltrations by hostile overseas forces in the name of religion shall be boycotted. No overseas religious group or individual shall be allowed to interfere in our country's religious affairs.

7. Patriotic religious groups serve as the bridge linking the Party, the government and religious people. We shall give them support in their self-development, self-conducted activities, and in fulfilling their roles.

8. Patriotic religious personnel are an important force in solidifying religious believers, and safeguarding the social stability. Religious groups shall train patriotic religious personnel purposely and systematically.

9. We shall positively channel religion to adapt to the socialist society. Religious believers shall combine their faith with patriotism, and conduct their activities within the framework of law and government policy.

10. All religious groups and believers shall safeguard the dignity of law, the interests of people, the national solidarity and reunification.

II. FREEDOM OF RELIGIOUS BELIEF ENSHRINED IN THE CONSTITUTION

Article 36 of The Constitution of the People's Republic of China stipulates, "Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination."

1. Respect and protect freedom of religious belief.
Religion, as along-term popular phenomenon in mankind's spiritual life, has deep epistemological ground and social roots, and follows objective rules that are not controlled by human will. Our country is a socialist one with people as its master. People enjoy extensive freedom and democratic rights, including right to freely choosing religious belief. Believers and non-believers share common political and economic interests. Only by respecting believers' religious faith can we solidify them to make concerted efforts in socialist modernization drive.

2. Administer religious affairs according to law.
The state protects normal religious activities allowed by the Constitution, law and policy. Religion shall not interfere with the executive issue, the judiciary issue, religious education and social public education of the state. We shall not allow any activity conducted in the name of religion that may disturb the social order, hurt people's health, and impede the state's education system. It is allowed in no way to use religion to oppose the Party's leadership and socialist system, to sabotage the state's reunification and national solidarity. Religious affairs in our country include that religious activities must be administered according to law.

3. Adhere to the principles of independence and self-running the church.
In history, colonialists and imperialists took Roman Catholic and Christianity as tools to invade China, so Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Church in China were once dominated by foreign forces, thus hurting Chinese people deeply. After the founding of new China, patriotic religious personnel and believers are not willing to see the foreign domination of the Chinese church. Therefore they seek to be independent and self-run the church. This is the common aspiration of both believers and non-believers, is the efficient barrier by which we may defend our country's religious affairs against foreign interference and infiltration, and serves as an important guarantee of avoiding the replay of historical tragedy, and safeguarding the state sovereignty and national dignity. All religions in our county must adhere to the principles of independence and self-running.

III. LAWS AND REGULATIONS REGARDING RELIGION

To protect freedom of religious belief, safeguard believers' legal rights, and administer religious affairs according to law, the State Council, the State Administration for Religious affairs and the People's Congress of Shandong Province established and promulgated laws and regulations concerning religion. In 1994, the State Council, through executive order No. 144, and No. 145, promulgated the Provisions on the Administration of Religious Activities of Aliens within the Territory of the People's Republic of China, and the Provisions on Administering Religious Sites. Subsequently, the State Administration for Religious Affairs issued Methods on Registering Religious Sites, and Methods on the Annual Inspection of Religious Sites. In 2000, the 16th Session of the Standing Committee of the Ninth People's Congress of Shandong Province adopted the Provisions on Administering Religious Affairs of Shandong Province. These laws and regulations provide legal foundations for the government to administer religious affairs. Religious believers shall abide by them.

1. Religious sites must be registered.
Religious sites are public places where believers and clerks conduct religious activities, and are social organizations whose establishment and activities involve various social aspects. Various relationships may originate from among believers, between believers and clerks, between believers and non-believers, and between religious sites and other social organizations, which shall be coordinated according to laws and regulations. Without resorting to laws and regulations, we cannot solve contradictions within religious sites, and contradictions between religious sites and other social aspects, and safeguard legal rights of religious sites. To register according to law is the legal procedure that religious sites must undergo in obtaining legal status, and is also the precondition on which the government may administer religious sites. Only registered religious sites are legal. All non-registered ones are illegal. Through registration, legal rights of religious sites will be protected by law. Through registration, the society may distinguish abnormal illegal activities from normal religious activities conducted at religious sites, thus making people know and respect legal religious activities, guard against illegal religious activities, and bringing illegal activities to justice.

2. The following conditions shall be met in establishing religious sites:
a. Having fixed places and names
b. Having regular members
c. Having administration body consisting of believers
d. Having clerks or personnel who meet requirements of respective
religion, who preside over religious activities.
e. Having bylaw
f. Having legal income

3. Procedures and requirements on registering religious sites.
The Religious body submits application for establishing a religious site, materials and certificates regarding this site, the endorsement of the township government or neighborhood office in the city, to the department of religious affairs of the government at or above the county level. After receiving the application, all related materials and certificates, the registrar shall make timely decision of either accepting or declining the case. If the case is accepted, the registration form will be issued. Then follow the procedures of examining, approving and certificating.

4. Major obligations that religious sites shall implement.
Religious sites, as a kind of social organizations, while their legal rights are respected and protected by the state and society, shall assume responsibilities that social organizations should assume to the state and society. Therefore, Article 4, 5, 9, and 12 of the Provisions on Administering Religious Sites stipulate the following:

a. Religious sites shall establish administration system, strengthening self construction and self administration.

b. The Provisions clearly states, "No one may make use of religious sites to engage in activities that disrupt the state reunification, national solidarity, social order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state." Religious sites are equal to other social organizations in front of law, whose activities shall be subject to the state law and policy.

c. Stick to the principle enshrined in the Constitution, that "Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination." Article 4 of the Provisions clearly states, "Religious sites are not subject to the domination of foreign religious organizations or individuals."

d. Religious sites shall follow the concerned regulations in receiving donations from overseas religious organizations or individuals.

e. All social activities at religious sites shall be conducted according to concerned laws, rules and regulations, and subject to the government's instruction and supervision.

5. Regulations on religious clerks.
Article 8 of the Provisions on Administering Religious Affairs of Shandong Province stipulates, "Religious clerks shall abide by the state laws and regulations, and rules and regulations of religious bodies and religious sites to which they belong. The confirmation or dismissal on clerk status shall be reported to the corresponding department of religious affairs for recording purpose."

6. Regulations on punishing illegal evangelists.
Article 32 of the Provisions on Administering Religious Affairs of Shandong Province stipulates, "The department of religious affairs shall ban religious clerk from presiding over religious activities outside religious sites, and non religious clerk from presiding over religious activities, and confiscate illegal incomes and possessions, and impose a fine ranging from 500 Yuan to 5000 Yuan (note: 1 dollar approximately equals 8.2 Yuan)."

7. Regulations on punishing illegal religious activities.
The Provisions on Administering Religious Affairs of Shandong Province stipulates that the department of religious affairs shall ban the following conducts, and confiscate illegal incomes and possessions, and impose a fine ranging from 3,000 Yuan to 30,000 Yuan:

a. Rebuild, dismantle, or remove temples, mosques and churches without approval.
b. Establish religious sites without approval.
c. Accept foreign religious donations, mission fund, or receiveforeign donations without approval.
d. Set up commercial or service network, conduct exhibitions, or shoot films at religious sites and religious education institutions without approval.
e. Set up outdoor religious signs without approval.
f. Non-religious organizations set up religious facilities, conduct religious activities, receive or receive in disguised form religious donations.
g. Accept additional religious conditions in foreign exchanges.

IV. HARMS OF SECRETLY-ESTABLISHED GATHERING PLACES AND SELF-CLAIMED PREACHERS

Secretly-established Christian gathering places are the illegal ones that have not filed application through religious bodies, and not registered with the department of religious affairs according to law, and not been administered according to law. Their activities are illegal religious ones. Self-claimed preachers are the ones who are not recognized by religious bodies, and not recorded by the department of religious affairs.

Their harms are as follows:

1. Violate religious policy, laws and regulations of the Party and the state.
The Constitution enshrines, "Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief." But freedom of religious belief is subject to the state's law, regulations and policy, and does not mean anarchism, nor means that people can do whatever they want to do. The Provisions on Administering Religious Sites stipulates, "Religious sites must register. Religious activities conducted at religious sites are subject to law and regulations." Since secretly-established Christian gathering places are mass organizations which defy the administration of the government and the leadership of patriotic religious bodies, and are in disarray, and their religious activities are conducted according to self-claimed preachers' own will and requirements, thus failing to meet the demand of the state and society, they greatly impede the implementation of the religious policy and regulations of the Party and the state.

2. Disrupt the normal order of religious activities.
The increase of secretly-established Christian gathering places and their members imposes great impact upon the normal order of religious activities. On the one hand, leaders of secretly established gathering places and self-claimed preachers, for the purpose of collecting money, constantly raise issues among the church, conduct splitting activities, form different factions, and seduce believers into wrongdoings, to establish new secret gathering places. On the other hand, leaders of secretly-established gathering places and self-claimed preachers conduct superstitious activities, distort religious teaching, spread heresy, and instigate believers to turn from registered religious sites to secretly-established gathering places, thus disrupting normal religious activities.

3. Sabotage social stability and people's lives.
The spread of secret Christian gathering places not only provide illegal sites for criminals, but also facilitate some cultic activists to conduct illegal activities. Some leaders of secret-established gathering places and self-claimed preachers collect money in the name of religion, thus constantly increasing believers' burden. Some cultic activists take advantage of the disorder of secret gathering places to become their member, and spread heretic teaching, many people are thus deceived, leaving their family and possessions, and wandering around. Therefore, people's normal lives and social stability are disrupted.

V. SEVERAL PROPOSALS ON DEALING WITH SECRETLY-ESTABLISHED GATHERING PLACES

Secretly-established Christian gathering places and self-claimed preachers must be banned. Concrete proposals are as follows:

1. All secret gathering places that fail to register according to law shall be banned.

2. Large secret gathering places, which are established due to improper location of religious sites and believers' lacking knowledge of religious policy and regulations, and pursuing orthodox faith, shall be dealt with through education. Those who wish to join patriotic religious bodies, and submit themselves to the government's administration shall be dealt with through lawful registration or proper arrangement of religious sites.

3. Those who become believers and set up secret gathering places due to the preaching of self-claimed preachers, but not being deeply affected by them, shall be brainwashed with the government's policy and regulations, and ordered to desert heretic teachings. On this basis, if one wants to give up his religious belief, his own will shall be respected. If one wishes to keep his religious belief, he shall be ordered to stop illegal religious activities, join patriotic religious bodies, submit himself to the government's administration, and go to legally registered religious sites for religious activities.

4. Those who are deeply affected by self-claimed preachers, oppose patriotic religious bodies, and defy the government's administration shall be "educated" and "transformed" through compulsive study of the government's religious policy and regulations.

5. Those self-claimed preachers, leaders and core members of secret gathering places who are stubborn and refuse to be transformed shall be detained and dealt with through different means. Each shall be brainwashed into giving up his wrongdoing. He who transforms himself well shall write down his confession and sign pledge of correction. He who sticks to his wrongdoing shall be seriously punished according to law.

6. Illegal gathering places established by "Eastern Lightning" and other cultic organizations shall be banned by the police department according to law.

END