Release of China's new religious regulations imminent

China continues to update its policy on foreign religions
Release of China's new religious regulations imminent

The Ninth National Congress of Catholic Representatives was held on Dec. 27-29, 2016. (Photo supplied) reporter, Hong Kong
January 17, 2017
A top Chinese official has disclosed that the newly amended religious affairs regulations will be released imminently and the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) plans to focus on enforcement.

The national meeting for religious directors across China was held in Beijing on Jan. 9-10, during which SARA's director Wang Zuoan delivered the remarks while setting out his plan for the year ahead.

According to Hong Kong's pro-Beijing daily, Wenweipo, Wang reported that the newly amended Regulations on Religious Affairs would be released after receiving approval from the State Council's executive meeting which will be held on date yet made public.

"The amendment focused on resolving issues related to national security and has strong requirements from the religious sector," Wang said.

The amendment, which completed a one-month public consultation on Oct. 7, is part of President Xi Jinping's strategy on religious management laid out during the National Conference of Religious Work in April 2016.

Observers believe that the amendment is to reinforce the Communist Party's control over religions, minorities and any potential sources of "social disruption."

In the SARA meeting, Wang also emphasized the bureau's work in 2017 would be to implement the spirit of the National Conference of Religious Work, strengthening the rule of law and insisting on Sinicization, that is, to make foreign religions more Chinese.

Religious work "must be [involved with] politics, must be politically clearheaded, must be strict in discipline and must dare to be responsible," Wang said.


Review on religious work in 2016

In the yearly plan for 2016, SARA stated that China would continue electing and ordaining bishops on its own for the Catholic Church in China, that is, without Vatican approval.

In the last quarter of 2016, four episcopal ordinations took place in Shaanxi, Shanxi and Sichuan provinces. However, all the new bishops were approved by both the Vatican and the Chinese government. 

The Ninth National Congress of Catholic Representatives was also held as planned. The meeting on Dec. 27-29 elected new leadership for the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China.

However, there does not appear to have been much progress on the plan to certify all Catholic priests in China. Church sources told that ID cards for religious clerics have been around for years but no one ever took them seriously.

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