In China, new signs of increased state control over religion

Communist Party seeks to minimize foreign influence over religious institutions
In China, new signs of increased state control over religion

Two laywomen pray at Shanghai's St. Ignatius Cathedral in May. (ucanews.com file photo)

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
China
October 9, 2015
The Chinese Communist Party is sending signals that it will intensify control over the Catholic Church and other religions during its upcoming summit on religion, the first such meeting during the three-year leadership of Xi Jinping.

Zhongguo Mingzu Bao, the official newspaper on religious issues, noted in an Oct. 8 commentary that Xi is "serious" on religion.

Though the article did not specify individual religions, it alluded to church, clergy and dioceses, an apparent reference to the Catholic Church and other Christian churches.

The article implied that Xi is seeking to minimize foreign influence on Chinese institutions, saying that all religions should be managed by religious organizations from within China. "There is no need for certain groups and individuals outside China to worry about this," it said.

"It's obvious that control on religions is to be tightened," a priest, who identified himself as Father Peter, told ucanews.com. "It was theory and slogans in the past. Now it becomes a real game to play."

The article was posted on the newspaper's social media site, with the headline referring to Xi by his nickname "Xi Dada."

Citing Xi's speech at the central United Front Work Department meeting in May, the article said the president has stated very clearly that all religions must adapt to socialist policy. It is "a common principle for all religions to comply with" since Communist China was founded in 1949, it said.

The Chinese government has established patriotic associations for all five recognized religions — Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam and Protestantism.

The Vatican has objected to China's control over church operations, in particular the appointment of bishops and administrative boundaries of dioceses.

In September, the United Front Work Department, which oversees religion, announced new regulations that prevent foreign involvement in China's religious institutions and ban party members from following a faith.

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