(AFP) – New rules on religious affairs in China will not lead to more freedoms and instead could signal a tougher time for underground churches and groups not officially sanctioned, analysts said yesterday. The regulations, to take effect on March 1, were made public Sunday by official media which said they were to safeguard religious freedom and human rights. But the main tone of the regulations has not changed — they still stress the overruling importance of state interests over religious affairs. “Religious bodies, activities and believers should abide by the Constitution, laws and regulations to safeguard national unity, racial harmony and social stability,” a clause says. Analysts said the rules, which protect only the legal rights of state-sanctioned religious groups, meant non-state-sanctioned ones such as Christian house churches or other religious sects would be worse off. “It is a two-edged sword,” said Chan Kim-kwong, a China expert at the Hong Kong Christian Council. “In terms of implementation, it is now clear what they should supervise, or what they shouldn’t bother with.”
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