Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new factsheet on China’s regulation of religious groups: China Factsheet – On February 1, 2020, the Chinese government’s Administrative Measures for Religious Groups went into effect. This regulation requires religious groups to obtain government permission for nearly every aspect of their operations.
The 2019 Administrative Measures for Religious Groups
The new Administrative Measures for Religious Groups increases the pressure on religious communities in China by expanding the scope of activities for which they must seek official permission. Article 3 of the regulation bans any religious activity by unregistered religious organizations without prior approval. Article 25 grants the religious affairs department significant supervisory authority to review the charter and annual work plans of religious organizations, as well as to monitor their compliance with national and local laws. In addition, religious organizations are required to report for review and approval any leadership personnel changes, important conferences or meetings, and major expenditures or construction projects.
In addition to making routine operations more burdensome, the 2019 Administrative Measures for Religious Groups also amounts to a significant invasion of religious organizations’ privacy and autonomy. The reporting requirements could provide Chinese authorities access to sensitive financial, personnel, or other information. As written, the regulation gives local authorities broad authority to deny even routine requests. Given the systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations in the country, some observers fear that Chinese officials will use this authority to target religious groups that Beijing deems to be subject to “foreign” influence, including Islam and Christianity. The breadth of the reporting requirements also increases the risk that that Chinese religious organizations will violate the law—either intentionally or inadvertently—by not reporting an activity mentioned in the regulation, thus giving Chinese authorities an excuse to take legal action.
You may read the full document: 2020 Factsheet – China