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ICC Note: Wang Zuoan, head of State Administration of Religious Affairs in China came out to defend the latest version of religious regulations published last week. He argues that Chinese government is in threat as religious growth in the country intensifies. The Party believes that the revision is needed in order to stop unmonitored religious activities, but critics see the rules as erosion of religious freedom.

09/12/2017 China (Asia News) – China is facing heightened threats from “foreign infiltration” via religion and from the spread of extremism, said Wang Zuoan, head of China’s Religious Affairs Bureau as he defended new rules passed last week.

In an article published today in the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, Wang said that the revision was urgently needed because “the foreign use of religion to infiltrate (China) intensifies by the day and religious extremist thought is spreading in some areas.”

“Issues with religion on the internet are starting to break out . . . and illegal religious gatherings in some places continue despite bans,” he added.

In recent decades, China has seen an impressive religious revival. Despite prohibitions, the obligation to teach atheism, and the ban on Party members on joining religious groups, at least 85 per cent of the Chinese population has some religious belief.

China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom for every citizen, but de facto allows only “normal” religious activities for five groups: Taoists, Buddhists, Muslims, Protestants, and Catholics.

The “normal” nature of their activities is guaranteed by complete government control at all levels: national, provincial, county, city, and village.

The new regulations include controls on religious personnel, gathering places, activities, foreign travels, and community economics.

For Wang, “freedom of religious faith is not equal to religious activities taking place without legal restrictions”.

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