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New Religion Law Goes into Effect in China

A church member shovels cement mix preparing to re-mount a cross on a Protestant church, which had been forcibly pulled down by Chinese government workers in Taitou Village, eastern China. (file)

A new law further restricting religious expression in China went into effect on February 1.

New Religion Law Goes into Effect in China
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A new law further restricting religious expression in China went into effect on February 1. Known as the Administrative Measures for Religious Groups, it requires faith organizations to obtain government permission for nearly every aspect of their operations. Moreover, religious communities must now promote the principles of the Chinese Communist Party.

Under Article 3 of the new Administrative Measures for Religious Groups, all religious activity in China by unregistered groups is banned without prior approval of the government.Article 25 includes the provision that religious organizations are required to submit for review and approval any leadership or personnel changes, important conferences or meetings.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom -- an independent, bi-partisan federal body tasked with monitoring violations of religious freedom or belief abroad -- noted in a recent report that “given the systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations in the country, some observers fear that Chinese officials will use this authority to target religious groups that Beijing deems to be subject to ‘foreign’ influence including Islam and Christianity.”

Article 22 of the regulation pushes the concept of “sinicization” -- in other words, religious groups must promote doctrines that comply with the government’s version of “traditional Chinese culture” and socialist values.As one Chinese Catholic priest told the Catholic news agency Asia News, “In practice, your religion no long matters, if you are Buddhist, or Taoist, or Muslim, or Christian: the only religion allowed is faith in the Chinese Communist Party.”

“Defending the right of all people to live their lives according to their conscience is one of the [President Trump] administration’s top priorities,” said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.That’s why the State Department recently inaugurated the International Religious Freedom Alliance -- a group of like-minded countries that treasure and fight for, international religious freedom around the world.

“Every human being has the right to believe in whatever it is they wish, to change their faith, or to hold no faith at all,” said Secretary Pompeo:

“Indeed, we must affirm, and fight for that truth now more than ever. More than eight in ten people in the world today live where they cannot practice their faith freely.”

“And,” added Secretary Pompeo, “we condemn the Chinese Communist Party’s hostility to all faiths.”