A Chinese senior official claims that foreigners are using religions to "infiltrate" China, urging the religious leaders to battle against the move.
Last Sunday, Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference- the top advisory body of the country- spoke to the heads of China’s state-run religious affairs bureaus on a seminar, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.
"Western religions and the Muslim religion were entering China in ways that were not in accord with the government’s wishes," Jia commented on the seminar, as quoted in another report by Agence France Presse (AFP).
The religious leaders were therefore warned to "obey the ruling Communist Party and guard against foreigners using religion to ‘infiltrate’ China."
According to AFP, Jia declared that "religious affairs work must be established within the overall work of the party and state and must completely obey, serve and develop under this task" in a bid to prevent "infiltration" and to "safeguard state security and social stability."
In addition, Xinhua new agency reported, heads of Chinese religious groups were called to unite patriotic religious figures and followers to make greater contribution to "the country's reform and modernization" as well as "the building of a harmonious socialist society."
Jia said the two focuses of the work of religious affairs bureaus in China in 2006 would be "uniting the broad masses of followers to contribute to the country's modernization drive" and "resisting the outside infiltration under the disguise of religion."
In the latest international religious freedom report published by the U.S. Department of State, the existing religious law in China regarding activities of foreign religious groups and missionaries was censored.
Currently, the State Administration for Religious Activities (SARA) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) United Front Work Department (UFWD) provide policy "guidance and supervision" on the implementation of government regulations regarding religious activity, including the role of foreigners in religious activity. Employees of SARA and the UFWD often are CCP members, who are atheists by party doctrine.
"Government officials continued to scrutinize closely contacts between citizens and foreigners involved in religion. The Government detained some citizens for providing religious information to foreigners and prevented some religious figures from traveling abroad," the report says.
"Some foreign church organizations came under pressure to register with government authorities, and some foreign missionaries whose activities extended beyond the expatriate community were expelled or asked to leave the country. In 2003, the Government banned the documentary film ‘The Cross’ and the book ‘Jesus in Beijing’," it adds.
In both January 2005 and January 2004, the Chinese government organized a national meeting on religion and addressed similar theme, advising officials to guard against Christian-influenced "cults" and avoid "foreign infiltration under cover of religion," the report says. The message is almost the same even in 2006. This implies that there is an ongoing movement of the Communist Chinese government to restrict the influence of foreign religious groups in China.
According to the report, while all the Protestant churches are to affiliate with the (Protestant) Three-Self Patriotic Movement/Chinese Christian Council (TSPM/CCC) in order to be legally recognized, they must not be "subject to any foreign domination." The authorities permit officially sanctioned religious organizations to maintain international contacts that do not involve "foreign control," but what constitutes "control" is not defined. Regulations enacted in 1994 and expanded in 2000 codified many existing rules involving foreigners, including a ban on proselytizing.
Also, the government-authorized Patriotic Catholic Church is prohibited to recognize the authority of the Papacy in many fundamental matters of faith and morals. The Government even makes political demands on the clergy or leadership.
As a result, many Protestant and Catholic churches that refuse to compromise their theological grounds will not register with the government. These unregistered churches are often subjected to crackdown and harassment by the Chinese authorities. China has millions of Christians and many of them refuse to worship within state-controlled churches.
The report points out that the authorities have displayed increasing tolerance for foreigner religious people if their religious observance does not involve Chinese nationals. The authorities allowed foreign nationals to preach to other foreigners, bring in religious materials for personal use, and preach to Chinese citizens at churches at the invitation of registered religious organizations. Foreigners are prohibited from conducting missionary activities; however, foreign Christians teaching on college campuses may openly profess their faith, provided their proselytizing remains discreet.
Government prohibitions on foreign religious activities have also jeopardized the opportunities of Chinese Christians to receive formal theological training. According to the report, the Government limits the numbers of Catholic and Protestant seminarians to go abroad for additional religious studies, and some religious students have had difficulty obtaining approval to study abroad. In most cases, foreign organizations provide funding for such training programs.
Theological training and resources are very limited in China indeed. Protestant and Catholic churches in China, whether government-sanctioned or unregistered, flourish rapidly despite of persecution. There is a huge demand to raise pastors and church minister to shepherd the young churches in the midst of prevailing false teachings.