New restrictions continue to shrink religious freedom

West Huaihai Road Christ Church held a Comprehensive Strengthening of Religious Administration Conference (Photo:Xuzhou Municipal Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau website)

(Jiangsu, China – September 22, 2022) The city of Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province, issued a notice aimed at tightening comprehensive religious control to limit religious freedom in China in the form of ten strict prohibitions and ten restrictions.  

Under Xi Jinping’s dictatorship, China has seen a proliferation of regulations and related bans on religious freedom. The notice titled “Notice on Strictly Implementing the Ten Strict Prohibitions And Ten Restrictions to Comprehensively Strengthen Religious Management” was jointly issued by five major religious groups, including those of the Christian faith in Xuzhou. Officials reported that this is to “comprehensively govern religion strictly and promote the healthy inheritance of religion.” 

According to the official website of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau in Xuzhou City, Jiangsu Province, all members of the management committee of each of the 10 religious venues in Xuzhou City’s Quanshan District held a study session on the morning of July 31. According to the report, each religious venue required religious clergy, site staff, and volunteer workers to implement the “ten strict prohibitions” and “ten restrictions” and abide by relevant regulations. Those who were inadequate in the execution and damaged the image of religion will be dealt with seriously in accordance with the law. The members of the management committee of each religious activity site unanimously said that religious people are citizens first and foremost. As citizens of faith, they must abide by the laws and regulations of the country and put “love your country, love your religion” as the utmost priority. 

The study session required strict compliance with the “ten strict prohibitions and ten restrictions” provisions in the five aspects of faith, moral and ethical conduct, ecclesiastical polity, talent, and organization to strengthen their self-construction; to dig deeper into the religious doctrine for content that is in favor of social harmony, the progress of the times and healthy civilization, to make an interpretation of the doctrine that meets the requirements of the development and progress of contemporary China and is in line with the excellent Chinese traditional culture; to actively guide the majority of believers to contribute to the development of the society, and to promote the adaptation of religion to socialist society. 

Xuzhou West Huaihai Road Christ Church also held an event studying the ten strict prohibitions and ten restrictions.  

The notice of ten strict prohibitions and ten restrictions covers a wide range of issues, imposing new specific restrictions on religious activities and further compressing the narrow space for religious groups to operate. These include restrictions on the dissemination of religious information on the Internet, denial of access to religion to minor citizens; prohibition of religious reading materials published within any religious group; and prohibition of religious rituals and ceremonies by religious groups themselves. Religious groups and activities of an unofficial nature are included in the ban, and independent study tours, conferences, and training for religious members outside the country are not permitted. 

Having the freedom of religion is the most fundamental right of human beings, and freedom of religion is the freedom of a person to choose their religious beliefs in society and to participate publicly in the rituals and traditions of that religious belief in that society. Freedom of religion also includes the freedom to renounce or change one’s religious beliefs according to one’s own judgment. It also includes the right to worship alone or with others, in public or in private, and the right to participate in religious services, religious activities, and religious preaching without fear of persecution by the government or other groups in society. However, the Chinese government adopted various bans in full view of the public, which have effectively deprived Chinese citizens of their freedom of religion.  

The ten strict prohibitions include: 

  1. It is strictly prohibited to preach outside places of religious activities such as tourist attractions, bus stations, shopping malls, hospitals, and around campuses, and it is illegal to preach on the Internet.
  2. It is strictly prohibited to display items that violate national policies, regulations and public order, and good morals. 
  3. It is strictly prohibited to spread extremist religious ideas, pagan heresies, and feudal superstitions.
  4. It is strictly prohibited to preach to minors.
  5. It is strictly prohibited to conduct commercial activities in the name of religion or a religious capacity.
  6. Editing, printing, and circulating illegal religious publications are strictly prohibited. 
  7. It is strictly prohibited to organize large-scale religious activities.
  8. It is strictly prohibited to break the regulations.
  9. It is strictly prohibited to accept disciples, ordain, preach, baptize, to stay at monasteries, or give ordination, etc.
  10. It is strictly prohibited to operate in a non-safe condition. 

The ten restrictions include:  

  1. It is not allowed to give in the name of religion to the faithful apportionment, to induce the faithful to donate money and goods, and accept foreign organizations and individuals with conditional donations.
  2. It is not allowed to set up merit boxes, offering boxes, and niyyah boxes in violation of the law.
  3. It is not allowed to illegally preach online, give sermons, interpret scriptures, chant, worship Buddha, burn incense, etc.
  4. No private meeting points are allowed, and it is not permitted to disseminate Tibetan Buddhism illegally.
  5. It is not allowed to violate the financial management regulations; no one shall take assets of religious groups and religious activity sites as their own.
  6. It is not allowed to hold unauthorized summer and winter camps and give out private invitations to domestic and foreign individuals to host religious activities.
  7. It is not allowed to organize unauthorized citizens to leave the country in order to participate in religious training, conferences, and religious activities.
  8. It is not allowed to violate social civilization, public order, and morals and damage the image of the Bishop.
  9. It is not allowed to interfere in social affairs and social life.
  10. It is restricted for non-religious clergy to engage in religious teaching activities.

~Gao Zhensai, Special correspondent of ChinaAid  

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