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SCIO briefing on China's protection of the 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.org.cnUpdated: April 6, 2018

Speakers:

Chen Zongrong, former vice administrator of State Administration for Religious Affairs

Xiao Hong, former spokeswoman of State Administration for Religious Affairs

Chairperson:

Xi Yanchun, spokeswoman of the State Council Information Office

Date:

April 3, 2018

The State Council Information Office of China (SCIO) releases a white paper titled "China's Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief" in Beijing on April 3, 2018. [Photo/China SCIO]


Xi Yanchun:

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Welcome to this press conference. Today, the State Council Information Office released the white paper "China's Policy and Practice in Protecting the Freedom of Religious Belief."

We are delighted to invite Mr. Chen Zongrong, former vice administrator of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, and Ms. Xiao Hong, former spokesperson of the administration, to attend this press conference. Now, I'll give a brief introduction to the white paper.

This is China's second white paper on the protection of the freedom of religious belief since 1997. It provides sufficient information and data on the efforts and progress China has made in the past four decades, especially after the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. The white paper contains approximately 8,000 words. The main content is divided into five parts: I. Basic Policies in Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief; II. Legal Guarantees for Freedom of Religious Belief; III. Conducting Religious Activities in an Orderly Manner; IV. The Role of Religious Groups Has Been Fully Developed; V. Active and Healthy Religious Relations

The white paper says that religion is an integral part of human civilization. It remains a common problem for all countries of the world on how to protect the freedom of religious belief, how to properly handle the relations between different religions, how to help religions cope with changing time, and how to curb religious extremism. Based on the development of religions and on the practical works related to religions, by reviewing positive and negative experiences in China and other countries, China has found a proper way to protect the freedom of religious belief, promote harmonious development of different religions, and give full play to the role of the religious circle in compliance with law. We will continue to respect and protect the freedom of religious belief of Chinese citizens, and unite religious believers and non-believers.

The white paper is available in multiple languages, including Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish and Arabic. 

Now, I'll give the floor to Mr. Chen.

Chen Zongrong:

Ladies and gentlemen, friends:

Good morning!

It's a pleasure to meet you all here, and thanks for paying attention to the conditions of religion in China and China's policies for religious affairs.

The State Council Information Office published "Freedom of Religious Belief in China" in October, 1997, which introduced China's basic policies and legal guarantees for freedom of religious belief for the first time. For over 20 years, China has made great strides in policies and practices on protecting the freedom of religious belief. With all of the experiences gathered from practice, we have developed policies on protecting the freedom of religious belief with Chinese characteristics. Before answering the questions, I would like to brief you on the four aspects of the characteristics:

Firstly, freedom of religious belief in China is deeply rooted in China's long history.

China is a country with a great diversity of religious beliefs since ancient times. Besides the main religions that are well organized and systematically developed, there are also plenty of local beliefs. Religions in China, except for Taoism and local beliefs, were introduced into China from overseas. Due to the influence of Chinese traditional culture, religions in China have developed unique characteristics featuring patriotism, reason, humanism, tolerance and others, which are presented in a different way compared to the religions developed under the background of western culture. Compared to some other countries and regions in the world, there are no religious wars or chaos caused by religious problems in China's history. 

Secondly, freedom of religious belief in China benefits from legal protection.

China's policies and legal protections for religious affairs is unique in four aspects. The first word to summarize is objective. The nature of religious beliefs is fully respected. We treat religious affairs with an objective attitude and see it as a common social phenomenon. We respect and protect citizen's religious feelings and needs, instead of setting standards with one's individual will. 

The second word to summarize is fair. All religious beliefs are treated as equals in China. No religion will be given special treatment with regard to policies and law. As for people, no matter if they have a religious belief or not, they are ensured the same rights and obligations. 

The third word is balance. Chinese people have the right to have a religious belief or not, and also the rights to choose what kind of religions to believe. We protect people who don't have religious belief before and now who are choosing to have one, and also the people who have religious beliefs before and now no longer have any beliefs. We respect and protect the freedom of religious belief of people who live in the regions where most people don't have religious beliefs, and also the freedom of religious belief of people who live in the regions where most people have religious beliefs. 

The last word to describe the characteristics is comprehensive. We protect the legal religious activities and take measures to stop the illegal religious activities. We take measures against the propagation and spread of religious extremism, and crack down on crimes.  

China's policies and legal protections for religious affairs is unique in four aspects. The first word to summarize is objective. The nature of religious beliefs is fully respected. We treat religious affairs with an objective attitude and see it as a common social phenomenon. We respect and protect citizen's religious feelings and needs, instead of setting standards with one's individual will. 

The second word to summarize is fair. All religious beliefs are treated as equals in China. No religion will be given special treatment with regard to policies and law. As for people, no matter if they have a religious belief or not, they are ensured the same rights and obligations. 

The third word is balance. Chinese people have the right to have a religious belief or not, and also the rights to choose what kind of religions to believe. We protect people who don't have religious belief before and now who are choosing to have one, and also the people who have religious beliefs before and now no longer have any beliefs. We respect and protect the freedom of religious belief of people who live in the regions where most people don't have religious beliefs, and also the freedom of religious belief of people who live in the regions where most people have religious beliefs. 

The last word to describe the characteristics is comprehensive. We protect the legal religious activities and take measures to stop the illegal religious activities. We take measures against the propagation and spread of religious extremism, and crack down on crimes.  

Thirdly, freedom of religious belief in China develops from the practice of religious affairs.

The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government attach great importance to religious affairs and see it as a significant issue facing China. In an effort to protect freedom of religious belief, China has mulled over policies, laws and regulations, and established professional institutions to properly handle religious affairs, in a bid to adapt to the times. Especially since the 18th CPC National Congress, under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, religious affairs have been put high on the agenda.

China has held the national conference on religious affairs, revised the Regulation on Religious Affairs and optimized the working system, building an orderly, free, stable and harmonious community. China will uphold the principle that religions in China must be Chinese in orientation. China will build active and healthy religious relationships, and maintain religious and social harmony. All these will lay solid foundations for handling the religious affairs and protecting the freedom of religious belief in the new era.

Fourth, China's gains in protecting freedom of religious belief are a result of the self-reflection, self-reliance and self-improvement of the religious community.

With the implementation of the policies on freedom of religious belief, China's religious community has stepped up efforts in community building, the awareness of citizenship, laws and politics among religious personages and believers have increased substantially, the self-management of religious organizations has further improved, the adaptation between religions and socialist society continues to get deeper, different religions respect and learn from each other, and a new realm of "five religions (Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism) working together to achieve harmony" has taken shape. 

First, speaking overall, religions in China are turning from the pursuit of quantity to the pursuit of quality, focusing on developing in the Chinese context, and working hard to strengthen theories, culture, institutions, organizations and talent cultivation. 

Second, they serve society, engage in public welfare and charity activities, and do lots of work in helping those in need and distress, winning wide praise from society. 

Third, they assume social responsibilities, conscientiously maintain harmony among religions and society, safeguard national security and ethnic solidarity, take a clear stand and draw a line against religious extremists, fight against illegal and criminal activities under the guise of religion, and serve as an important force to promote economic and social development. 

Fourth, they carry out extensive international exchanges, take an active part in exchanges among people with different beliefs and different civilizations, promote closer ties between people, the linking up of cultures and mutual learning among civilizations, and contribute strength and wisdom to maintaining world peace and building a community with a shared future for mankind.

In short, China's policies on freedom of religious belief are sincere, conform to its national conditions and are effective. We have our own experience in protecting freedom of religious belief.

Xi Yanchun:

Thanks for the introduction of Mr. Chen. Now let's move on to the Q&A session. 

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