VI. Citizens Enjoy Freedom
Of Religious Belief

There are many religions in China, such as Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism. Among them Buddhism, Daoism and Islam are more widely accepted. It is difficult to count the number of Buddhist and Daoist believers, since there are no strict admittance rites. Minority nationalities such as the Hui, Uygur, Kazak, Tatar, Tajik, Uzbek, Kirgiz, Dongxiang, Salar and Bonan believe in Islam, a total of 17 million people. There are 3.5 million and 4.5 million people in China following Catholicism and Protestantism respectively.

China's Constitution stipulates that citizens enjoy freedom of religious belief. The state protects normal religious activities and the lawful rights and interests of the religious circles. The Criminal Law, Civil Law, Electoral Law, Military Service Law and Compulsory Education Law and some other laws make clear and specific provisions protecting religious freedom and equal rights of religious citizens. No state organ, social organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. State functionaries who illegally deprive a citizen of the freedom of religious belief shall be investigated, and legal responsibility affixed where due according to Article 147 of the Criminal Law.

The government has established departments of religious affairs responsible for the implementation of the policy of religious freedom. During the "cultural revolution," the government's religious policy was violated. After the "cultural revolution," especially since China initiated the reform and opening to the outside world, the Chinese government has done a great deal of work and made notable achievements in restoring, amplifying and implementing the policy of religious freedom and guaranteeing citizens' rights in this regard.

With the support and help of the Chinese government, religious facilities destroyed during the "cultural revolution" have gradually been restored and repaired. By the end of 1989, more than 40,000 monasteries, temples and churches had been restored and opened to the public upon approval of the governments at various levels. Houses and land used for religious purposes are exempted from taxes. Temples, monasteries and churches which need repair but lack money get assistance from the government. Since 1980, financial allocations from the central government for the maintenance of temples, monasteries and churches have reached over 140 million yuan. The maintenance of the Potala Palace in Tibet received 35 million yuan from the government. Local governments also allocated funds for the maintenance of temples, monasteries and churches.

There are now eight national religious organizations in China. They are: the China Buddhist Association, the China Daoist Association, the China Islamic Association, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, the National Administration Commission of the Chinese Catholic Church, the Chinese Catholic Bishops College, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee of the Protestant Churches of China and the China Christian Council. There are also 164 provincial-level and more than 2,000 county-level religious organizations. All religious organizations and all religious citizens can independently organize religious activities and perform their religious duties under the protection of the Constitution and the law. There are 47 religious colleges in China, such as the Chinese Institute of Buddhist Studies, the Institute of Islamic Theology, the Jinling Union Theological Seminary of the Chinese Protestant Churches in Nanjing, the Chinese Catholic Seminary and the Chinese Institute of Daoist Studies. Since 1980, more than 2,000 young professional religious personnel have been graduated from religious colleges and more than 100 religious students have been sent to 12 countries and regions of the world for further studies. China has more than ten religious publications and about 200,000 professional religious personnel -- nearly 9,000 of them are deputies to the people's congresses and members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference at various levels. Along with deputies and members from other circles, they participate in discussions of state affairs and enjoy equal democratic rights politically.

In China, because of these policies, different religions and religious organizations as well as religious people and nonreligious people respect each other and live in harmony.

The religious freedom that Chinese citizens enjoy under the Constitution and the law entails certain obligations stipulated by the same. The Constitution makes it clear that no one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of other citizens or interfere with the state's educational system. Those who engage in criminal activities under the subterfuge of religion shall be dealt with according to law, whether they are religious people or not. Law-breaking believers, like other law-breaking citizens, are dealt with according to law. Among the religious people who were dealt with according to law, some were engaged in subversion against the state regime or activities endangering national security, some instigated the masses to defy state laws and regulations, others incited the masses to infighting that seriously disturbed public order, and still others swindled money, molested other people physically and mentally and seduced women in the name of religion. In short, none of them were arrested only because of their religious beliefs.

Guided by the principles of independence, self-rule and self-management, Chinese religions oppose any outside control or interference in their internal affairs so as to safeguard Chinese citizens' real enjoyment of freedom of religious belief. Before the founding of the People's Republic of China, China's Catholic and Protestant churches were all under the control of foreign religious forces. Dozens of "foreign missions" and "religious orders and congregations" carved out spheres of influence on the Chinese land, forming many "states within a state." At that time there were 143 Catholic dioceses in China, but only about 20 bishops were Chinese nationals -- and they were powerless -- a good indication of the semi-feudal and semi-colonial nature of the old Chinese society. Chinese Catholic and Protestant circles resented this state of affairs and, as early as in the 1920s, some insightful people proposed that the Chinese church do its own missionary work, support itself and manage its own affairs. But these proposals were not realized in old China. After the founding of New China, Chinese religious circles rid themselves of foreign control and realized self-management, self-support and self-propagation. The Chinese people finally control their own religious organizations.

The Chinese government actively supports Chinese religious organizations and religious personnel in their friendly exchanges with foreign religious organizations and personnel on the basis of independence, equality and mutual respect. International relationships between religious circles are regarded as part of the non-governmental exchange of the Chinese people with other peoples of the world. In recent years, Chinese religious organizations have established and developed friendly relations with more than 70 countries and regions and sent delegations to many international religious conferences and symposiums. Chinese religious groups have joined world religious groups such as the World Fellowship of Buddhists, the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, the World Conference on Religion and Peace, the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace and the World Council of Churches. Since 1955, excluding the "cultural revolution" period, the Chinese Muslims have never stopped their pilgrimages to Mecca. The Chinese government has offered all kinds of facility and assistance for these trips. Between 1955 and 1990 more than 11,000 Chinese Muslims participated in the Mecca pilgrimages, several dozen times the total before the founding of New China. In recent years the annual number of pilgrims has surpassed 1,000 -- 1,500 in 1987, 1,100 in 1988, 2,400 in 1989, 1,480 in 1990, and 1,517 in 1991.