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Full text:China's Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief

White Paper
The State Council Information Office of China issued a white paper titled "China's Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief" on Tuesday.

China SCIOUpdated: April 4, 2018

III. Conducting Religious Activities in an Orderly Manner

The major religions practiced in China are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism; with a total of nearly 200 million believers and more than 380,000 clerical personnel. China has numerous Buddhist and Taoist believers, but it is difficult to accurately estimate their numbers as there are no set registration procedures which ordinary believers must follow as part of their religion. There are around 222,000 Buddhist clerical personnel and over 40,000 Taoist clerical personnel. The 10 minority ethnic groups, the majority of whose population believe in Islam, total more than 20 million, with about 57,000 clerical personnel. Catholicism and Protestantism have 6 million and 38 million followers in China respectively, with 8,000 and 57,000 clerical personnel. China also has many folk beliefs which are closely linked to local cultures, traditions and customs, in which a large number of people participate. There are approximately 5,500 religious groups in China, including seven national organizations which are Buddhist Association of China, Chinese Taoist Association, China Islamic Association, Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, Bishops' Conference of Catholic Church in China, National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, and China Christian Council.

Conditions of places of worship have been notably improved. The State requires the registration of places of worship for group religious activities in accordance with the law, so as to provide legal protection and ensure that all activities are carried out in an orderly manner. At present, there are about 144,000 places of worship registered for religious activities in China, among which are 33,500 Buddhist temples (including 28,000 Han Buddhist temples, 3,800 Tibetan Buddhist lamaseries, and 1,700 Theravada Buddhist temples), 9,000 Taoist temples, 35,000 Islamic mosques, 6,000 Catholic churches and places of assembly spread across 98 dioceses, and 60,000 Protestant churches and places of assembly. Religious groups and places of worship follow the unified tax regulations of the State, pay taxes and enjoy tax breaks accordingly. The government ensures that places of worship have access to public services such as running water, electricity, gas, heating, roads, communications, broadcast facilities, televisions, and medical services.

Religious texts and literature are published as prescribed by the law. The printing, publication and circulation of religious text, in different languages and editions, and printed works, audio-visual products and e-books that record, explain and/or annotate religious doctrines and canons, have met the diverse demands of citizens with religious beliefs from the various ethnic groups. Several large collections of religious classics, including the Chinese Buddhist Canon, the Chinese Taoist Canon and A Collection of Editions and Commentaries for the Laozi, have been compiled and published. Traditional sutra printing houses in Tibetan Buddhist temples have been well preserved and developed. There are now 60 such sutra printing houses, including the one in the Potala Palace, that can print 63,000 different sutras every year. Islamic classics, such as the Koran, have been translated and published in Chinese, Uygur, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz languages. The publication and circulation of the New Collection of Al-Wa'z Speeches series and other reading materials and magazines have exceeded 1.76 million copies. China has printed over 160 million copies of the Bible in more than 100 different languages for over 100 countries and regions, including 80 million copies printed in the Chinese language, 11 ethnic minority languages and braille for churches in China. A great many religious groups and places of worship have launched websites; and the Islamic Association of China has a website in both Chinese and Uygur languages.

The religious education system has been further improved. By September 2017, there are 91 religious schools in China whose establishment was approved by the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA), including 41 Buddhist, 10 Taoist, 10 Islamic, 9 Catholic and 21 Protestant schools. There are six national level religious colleges, namely, the Buddhist Academy of China, High-level Tibetan Buddhism College of China, Chinese Taoist College, China Islamic Institute, National Seminary of the Catholic Church in China, and Nanjing Union Theological Seminary. At present, more than 10,000 students study in these religious schools whose graduates total more than 47,000.

Social security for religious clerical personnel has been enhanced. The SARA and other relevant departments jointly issued the "Directives on Solving the Social Security Problem for Religious Clerical Personnel" in 2010, and again the "Notice of Further Solving the Social Security Problem for Religious Clerical Personnel" in 2011, which brought clerical personnel into the social security system. At the end of 2013, 96.5 percent of clerical personnel were covered by medical insurance, 89.6 percent by the old-age insurance, and all qualified personnel by subsistence allowance welfare. Almost all clerical personnel were covered by the social security system in China.

The religious activities of believers are being conducted in an orderly manner. All normal religious activities, including attending religious services, fasting, worshiping Buddha, praying, preaching, reciting scriptures, burning incense, attending Mass, being baptized or ordained, observing extreme unction, holding memorial ceremonies, and celebrating religious festivals, which believers conduct at places of worship or in their own homes in accordance with customary religious practices, are protected by law, and no organization or individual may infringe on these rights. Traditional Tibetan Buddhist activities such as scripture study and debate, initiation into monkhood or nunhood, abhisheka (empowerment ceremony) and self-cultivation, and tests and degree promotions in lamaseries are held on a regular basis, while ceremonial activities are also held during important religious festivals. Muslim customs regarding food and drink, clothing, festivals, marriages and funerals are fully respected. The Islamic Association of China organizes for Muslims to go on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia every year, with the number of participants exceeding 10,000 a year since 2007.

Activities that disturb the normal order in places of worship have been rectified. In accordance with the "Directives on Some Issues Relating to the Management of Buddhist and Taoist Temples", the SARA and other relevant departments have been conducting joint investigations since 2012 into the problem of religious revenue being used by businesspeople or "go public". In 2017, the SARA and 11 related departments issued "Guidelines on Further Controlling the Commercialization of Buddhism and Taoism", which prohibits commercial capital from being invested in religious revenues, to prevent normal religious activities from being affected by money-grabbing behavior. Relevant departments have intensified the management of the Internet regarding religious affairs, and swiftly dealt with the spread of illegal information concerning religions, effectively protecting the legal rights and interests of religious groups.

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