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Things are getting (even) worse for religious believers in China

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There’s more depressing news from China. Its Religious Affairs Office has announced that, not only must all religious organizations get state approval for any activity they undertake, they are also expected to “spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Given the basic irreconcilabilities between, say, small “o” orthodox Christianity and the philosophy of Chinese Communism – which, after all, includes a principled commitment to atheism – this can only be seen as an escalation in the Chinese regime’s effort to tell religious believers what they may and may not believe. As reported in Asia News:

As of February 1, 2020, new administrative measures will be put in place for Chinese religious groups.  According to a communication published by Xinhua, published yesterday, they complete the “Regulations on religious affairs” revised two years ago and implemented on February 1, 2018.

The text of the “Administrative measures for religious groups” published by Xinhua consists of six chapters and 41 articles dealing with the organization, functions, offices, supervision, projects and economic administration of communities  and groups at both a national and local level.  Every aspect of the life of religious communities – from formation, gatherings to annual and daily projects – is subject to approval by the government’s religious affairs department.

In addition to widespread control of all community activities, the new measures require religious personnel to support, promote and implement total submission to the Chinese Communist Party among all members of their communities.

Art. 5 states that “religious organizations must adhere to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, observe the constitution, laws, regulations, ordinances and policies, adhere to the principle of independence and self-government, adhere to the directives on religions in China, implementing the values ​​of socialism….”

Art. 17 demands even more: “Religious organizations must spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party, as well as national laws, regulations, rules to religious personnel and religious citizens, educating religious personnel and religious citizens to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, supporting the socialist system, adhering to and following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics….”

A Chinese Catholic priest commented: “In practice, your religion no longer matters, if you are Buddhist, or Taoist, or Muslim or Christian: the only religion allowed is faith in the Chinese Communist Party.”

Many will wonder what the Vatican – which has entered into an agreement with the Chinese regime regarding the life of Catholic Church in China – thinks about this, or if officials from the Holy See will say anything at all.

At this point, all I will say is that Vatican “Ostpolitik” didn’t work in the past, and, judging from the Chinese regime’s behavior, it doesn’t appear to be working now.

Image: Hosiet [CC0]

Samuel Gregg

is director of research at the Acton Institute. He has written and spoken extensively on questions of political economy, economic history, ethics in finance, and natural law theory. He has an MA in political philosophy from the University of Melbourne, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in moral philosophy and political economy from the University of Oxford.