International News

Church Fears New Regulations Will Put More Restrictions on Religion

HONG KONG (CNS) – Church officials fear that newly revised religious affairs regulations released by the Chinese government, supposedly aimed at protecting national security, will be used to further suppress religious activities.

Earlier in September, Premier Li Keqiang announced that a state council order would take effect Feb. 1.

Anthony Lam, executive secretary of the Holy Spirit Study Center in Hong Kong, told that the new provisions showed authorities had not listened to opinions expressed by religious communities during public consultations.

Total religious control was the goal, he said, whereas a 2005 version had been more balanced and moderate.

The changes reflected differing governing styles of former president Hu Jintao and current President Xi Jinping, he added.

Lam cited tighter restrictions in the revised regulations on “unauthorized religious” venues. He questioned whether a home display about Zen meditation exercises could, for example, be deemed illegal.

He stressed that both open and underground communities of the Catholic Church in China would be affected.

Because of loopholes in the regulations, the open communities – whose leaders register with the government – could be subjected to cash extortion demands over what authorities considered to be “unauthorized” religious venues, he added.

A draft of the regulations was released in 2014, but a finalized version was only recently made public. The regulations include chapters on general provisions as well as religious groups, venues, personnel, property and legal responsibilities.

Detailed provisions on what constitutes religious institutes and religious activities are also covered, reported.