New Legal Initiatives Threaten the Existence of Chinese Underground Church

02/19/2019 China (International Christian Concern) – On Feb. 12, the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) and the Ministry of Civil Affairs jointly announced that personnel of all religious venues should apply for legal person status from April 1.

A Catholic named Paul from the official church told UCA News his concerns about such legal move.

“The authorities have previously threatened the underground church to register but there was no official notice yet. Now the notice is issued, they have grounds to do that as the legal person system will be used to threaten underground priests to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association; otherwise, you will be defined to be illegal. It would be possible to eliminate the underground church,” he said.

This system will harm church property as “the legal person is the owner of the religious site; as long as the legal person signs it, the church may be able to sell it,” he added.

The notice he refers to, were jointly issued by SARA and the ministry on Jan. 2 on registration for legal person status.

It contains 14 articles stating that mosques, churches and other religious sites should apply for registration of legal person status; their financial management should be in line with the state’s regulations on finance, assets and accounting; and they should fulfil the criteria of organized institutions with sound rules and regulations.

Before registration, the consent of a local recognized religious group should be obtained, with information and documents reviewed by the county religious affairs department. Applicants also need to support the Communist Party’s leadership and the socialist system and compliance with the constitution, laws, rules, ordinances and state policies.

The requirements set forth by Beijing are intended to submit underground church under the control of patriotic Christian organizations, the government agencies that monitor these churches to make sure they are aligned with the Communist Party’s ideologies.

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