China to launch renewed crackdown on religion

China is poised to enact harsh new controls on religion within days, it has been reported.

As The Irish Catholic went to press this week, numerous media outlets warned that new regulations aimed directly at individuals and faith communities are set to be rolled out by Beijing. 

The regulations, issued in draft form in September by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, include measures to fine people who rent or provide space for Churches not fully approved by the authorities, such as the so-called ‘underground’ Catholic Church which maintains its loyalty to Rome. 

Restrictions

Religious schools attached to such Churches will also be forced to operate under new restrictions, while those seeking to access religious writings from abroad will find such texts limited. 

Students of theology travelling abroad to pursue their studies will also be monitored more closely.

The drive on religion appears to be yet another strand of President Xi Jinping’s strengthening of Communist Party rule in China amid perceived threats from the international community. 

In 2013, President Xi oversaw the issuing of the so-called Document 9, which identified key areas to be dealt with in protecting China from outside influence, with religion being viewed as a route for spies into the country.

The warnings on the Chinese drive against religions comes as America’s Congressional-Executive Commission on China released its latest report for 2016, which accuses the communist nation of ever greater restrictions on human rights.

Unveiling the report in Washington DC, commission chair Chris Smith said “the Chinese government’s human rights record is utterly disgraceful, continuing a downward trend over the past three years…The Chinese government took extraordinary and unprecedented steps last year to decimate the ranks of human rights lawyers, crush independent civil society and religious groups, and expanded controls over the Internet and the press.” 

In terms of religious communities, the commission report found that “in both law and practice, the Chinese government continued to violate the rights of its citizens to religious freedom”.