(Beijing, China—April 19, 2022) Recently, China State Administration for Religious Affairs released the Measures for the Administration of Financial Affairs of Religious Premises (hereafter referred to as “measures”). These measures were jointly drafted by the State Administration for Religious Affairs and Ministry of Finance, effective starting June 1, 2022.
These new measures are an extended revision of the Regulations on Religious Affairs from 2017. The 2010 Regulations on Financial Supervision and Management of Religious Activity Sites (for Trial Implementation) provide for the supervision of the financial management system of religious activity sites, the opening of unit bank settlement accounts, and the handling of unified social credit codes, etc. The Regulations on Religious Affairs specify that religious activity sites are non-profit organizations and provide for their financial management. The newest measures provide more detailed management regulations for this purpose.
It is evident that supervision cannot satisfy the Chinese government departments’ lust for power. Now, the Religious Affairs Bureau directly participates in the management of religious premises’ finances, which means the Chinese government has controlled religion in every aspect.
China State Administration for Religious Affairs’ high-ranking official responded to reporters’ questions and talked about the necessity of making new measures, saying that it was urgent to safeguard the legal rights of religious premises and religious people. As a matter of fact, however, the release of the measures will not safeguard the legal rights of religious people and premises but infringe on the fundamental right, freedom of religion, which the PRC Constitution grants Chinese citizens instead. China State Administration for Religious Affairs came out with regulations for various industries by constantly using the high-sounding excuse in the past few years in the attempt to control religion and make religion a tool for the Chinese government to be totalitarian.
The regulations boil down to four main components. First, religious premises should set up internal finance management institutions, establish finance management departments, and make finance professionals an integral part of their premises. The finance management department should oversee the finance under the administrative leadership of the premise. Critical events related to financing management should be discussed and determined by the administration departments of the premise together.
Second, the accounting checking system should be standardized. Religious premises will implement the accounting rules the country makes for non-governmental and non-profit organizations, set accounting notebooks in accordance with laws, and do accounting in the debit and credit bookkeeping method. They can entrust authorized agents to take care of the accounting work based on their needs and should submit their last year’s financial statement to the Department of Religious Affairs in the first three months of the next year.
Third, the financial revenue and expenditure management should be standardized. Religious premises should make their annual revenue and expenditure budgets. Each kind of revenue should be documented in a timely manner and deposited in the organization’s bank account instead of an individual’s bank account. They shouldn’t receive money via an individual’s Paypal, WeChat, or other online methods. They should issue donors the receipts which are printed and coded by the Provincial-level Department of Religious Affairs, and the donation box should be overseen by three people. The revenue should be spent on events that are in line with the mission of the organization and not be allotted to people or spent on fields and events banned pursuant to laws. According to the finance expenditure approval system, large expenditures should be discussed and approved by the administration leaders of the premises. It is barred from being involved in illegal non-governmental loans and any kind of illegal financial event.
Fourth, asset management should be standardized. Religious premises should make asset management rules and strengthen the management of circulating assets, fixed assets, intangible assets, and antique and cultural assets.
Additionally, the measures specify different parties’ supervisory rights over the religious premises.
First, Religious Affairs and the Department of Finance should guide the finance management system of religious premises, check on its implementation, request the religious premises which have issues to rectify and give a fine if a violation occurs. Religious Affairs, the Department of Finance, and other related government departments can examine and audit the asset and finance of religious premises.
Second, religious organizations should assist and urge religious premises to build their internal financial management system and help religious premises whose finance management has issues to rectify.
Third, religious premises should publicize their financial statement on a regular basis in an appropriate way, which includes their revenue and how they use donations, religious premises should be supervised by their religious clerks, doners, and religious citizens. Donors and religious citizens’ reasonable advice and thoughts should be taken by the administration department of religious premises, and feedback should be provided to donors and religious citizens in a proper way. If a religious premise is registered as a corporation, its finance management department and the department’s work should be overseen by the premises’ supervisory board.
Fourth, finance personnel of religious premises can execute their finance supervisory right pursuant to Accounting Law of the P.R.C. and other regulations, giving advice if any finance violation appears and reporting it to the administration department of the premises and other related departments.
Measures for the Administration of Financial Affairs of Religious Premises, like the Administration of Religious Internet Information which has been effective since March 1, violate both the PRC Constitution and multiple international conventions the Chinese government signed. Religious freedom means that citizens can donate and talk about their faith online, laws and administrative regulations should not restrict citizens’ online donations and the expression of their faith. It is apparent that a department abuses and oversteps its authority if it restricts citizens’ fundamental rights blatantly.
~Yu Bing, ChinaAid Special Reporter
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