(Zhejiang Province / Beijing) On December 6, 2021, the Zhejiang Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission issued a notice regarding their formulated “Administrative Measures for Registration and Cancellation Policies of Venues for Religious Activities (Trial Implementation).” According to the Administration for Religious Affairs, the measures, effective this January, comply with the 2017 revised Regulations on Religious Affairs, the 2019 implemented Regulations on Religious Affairs of Zhejiang Province, and the 2020 effective “Administrative Measures on Religious Organizations.”
In Zhejiang Province, home to one of China’s most vibrant Christian populations, churches, as well as other religious organizations increasingly struggle to establish and register sites for religious activities. The recently, reportedly “improved” restrictive measures from Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Zhejiang religious department may be widely interpreted as a foreshadowing that Zhejiang authorities will impose stricter restrictions on registered religious groups.
The population of vibrant Christians in some Zhejiang Province areas exceeds 10%, with registered churches and non-registered house churches currently developing in a balanced manner. At the beginning of 2014, however, the Beijing regime took hostile actions against Christians in Zhejiang and demolished approximately 1600 crosses on Church properties. A barrage of sources also exposed the CCP’s demolition of the then newly built Sanjiang Church in Wenzho. During the following seven years, the provincial government continued to radically oppress those professing Christianity, Authorities prohibited children, schoolteachers, medical staff, and others from attending churches.
The 17 articles in the January document primarily discuss the purpose of the formulated measures. These include:
- scope of application,
- management principles,
- establishment conditions,
- establishment procedures,
- provision of materials,
- registration and issuance,
- cancellation conditions,
- cancellation procedures,
- legal cancellation,
- property liquidation,
- information management, and
- other aspects.
The document relates two cases of cancellation of registration.
- Cancellation by the religious affairs department, and
- The application for cancellation by religious groups.
The document stipulates that the CCP agency managing the registration for religious groups retains the right to cancel their registrations unilaterally. Article 10 specifies that if a religious organization does not apply for cancellation of registration consistent with the provisions of the noted measures, and still fails to do so within the prescribed time limit, then in accordance with the law, the original agency managing the registration may legally cancel it.
In another scenario, CCP authorities use the document to target religious groups with government revoked registrations. If a church or religious group does not follow through with cancellation procedures within the prescribed time, officials may unilaterally cancel the registration.
The “Administrative Measures for Registration and Cancellation…” allows authorities to conduct financial liquidation towards religious groups. During the process of canceling the registration, property liquidation shall be carried out to clarify the creditor’s rights, debts, and remaining property. The legal surplus property a religious group or venues owns [for religious activities] shall be used by the corresponding religious group for undertakings consistent with its purpose. If it is illegally owned and operated, it shall be disposed of in compliance with relevant laws and regulations. After CCP officials cancel a venue for religious activities’ registration, a church’s or religious organization’s original houses and buildings may no longer legally sponsor or facilitate religious activities.
CCP authorities revealed “Measures” Zhejiang Province issued, after the National Religious Work Conference held December 3–4. According to Zhejiang’s Religious Department, the January 2022 effective document echoes Xi Jinping’s request regarding: “the need to improve the legalization level of religious work.” Nevertheless, as the CCP’s “improvements” on measures for religious activities continue, as evidenced in 2017, 2019, 2020, and 2021 (effective in 2022), they simultaneously restrict churches and religious groups; decreasing religious freedom.
Gao Zhensai, ChinaAid Special Correspondent
*Recently, citing the fight against the pandemic as grounds, CCP officials have ordered most churches in China to close for an extended period.