Chinese Government Guidelines Impose Increased Political Influence on Religious Venues, Sermons and Activities

China’s communist government has implemented new guidelines on religious establishments aimed at prohibiting associations with foreign entities and compelling faith institutions to provide teachings that promote a sense of patriotism among followers.

Destruction of Golden Lampstand Church, from a video by church members (Bitter Winter)
Destruction of Golden Lampstand Church, from a video by church members (Bitter Winter)

These new rules, announced to be taking effect in September, require monasteries, temples, mosques, churches and other religious venues to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and leader Xi Jinping’s plans for the “Sinicization” of religious activity.

Titled “Administrative Measures for Religious Activity Venues,” the regulations replace rules established in 2005, “Regulations for the Establishment, Approval, and Registration of Religious Activity Venues.” The new laws “are worse” than the previous repressive version, points out Bitter Winter, a Turin, Italy-based magazine covering religious liberty and human rights.

According to a document posted on the website of the United Front Work Department, a CCP branch responsible for outreach and influence, it is prohibited for any individual or organization to utilize religious activity venues for purposes that “endanger national security, disrupt social order [or] damage national interests.”

Administrators of religious venues will be subject to comprehensive assessment by officials responsible for religious affairs. The full text in English can be accessed here. It adds that these venues are required to possess a deep affinity for the homeland and uphold the guidance of the CCP and its socialist framework.

The regulations also prohibit granting teaching positions to foreign religious organizations or institutions or receiving donations from overseas sources without prior authorization.

According to these new guidelines, establishments are required to synthesize Chinese culture and reflect a distinctly Chinese aesthetic in architecture, sculpture, painting and decoration. The guidelines prohibit construction of sizable outdoor religious statues near temples and churches. 

Radio Free Asia reports these new regulations are part of the political endeavor to incorporate Chinese characteristics into religious practices, a campaign that has encompassed actions such as displaying portraits of President Xi in churches, prohibiting Christmas observances, and dismantling domes and crosses at mosques and churches through enforced demolition.


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