China has revised its regulation on religious affairs, to take effect on Feb 1, 2018, according to a decree signed by Premier Li Keqiang and released by the State Council on Sept 7.
The last version of the regulation was released in November 2004 and took effect in March 2005.
The regulation is formulated with the goal of protecting citizens’ freedom of religious belief, maintaining religious and social harmony and regulating the management of religious affairs.
It specified that citizens are entitled to the right of freedom of religion.
The management of religious affairs should adhere to the principle of protecting legitimate religious activities while curbing and preventing illegal and extreme practices.
Governments at all levels are urged to strengthen religious work, with efforts to improve the mechanism of religious affairs.
The establishment, changes and dissolution of religious groups must be registered in accordance with related rules on China’s social group management.
Religious groups are entitled to functions that include assisting governments at all levels in the implementation of laws, regulations, rules and policies, protecting the legitimate rights of citizens with religious beliefs, guiding religious affairs, researching religious culture and carrying out religious education and training.
Only national religious groups or province-level religious groups are entitled to establish religious colleges.
Venues for religious activities include temples, churches and other fixed places.
Other gathering places should be determined by the religious affairs departments of province-level governments.
Venues for religious activities are urged to strengthen internal management, improve management system in personnel, finance, assets, relics protection and other aspects, and accept the guidance, supervision and inspection from local governments.
Governments at all levels should include the construction of venues for religious activities into their overall land use plans and urban-rural development plans.
Religious staffers recognized by religious groups are allowed to conduct religious activities after filing a record with religious departments of local governments above county level.
The document also regulated that collective religious activities should be held in religious venues, organized by religious groups or schools, presided over by qualified staff members, following religious creed.
Non-religious organizations or schools should not carry out religious activities and religious education or training.
Religious groups, schools, temples and churches are allowed to publish materials for their internal use.
Internet religious services should be approved by religious affairs departments of government above province-level, and follow the national internet service regulations.
Religious groups, schools, and venues can manage and use public assets or collective ownership assets in accordance with laws and regulations.
Land, houses, facilities and other legitimate assets of religious groups, schools and venues are protected by law.
Religious groups, schools and venues can accept overseas or domestic donations for charitable causes.
In addition, they should adopt the national financial and accounting system and register as tax payers.
Forcing citizens to adopt a religion or disturbing normal religious activities will result in orders to stop. If the acts cause harm to public security, they will receive punishment.
Violating the legal rights of religious groups, schools, venues, and believers is a civil liability, and can result in criminal sanctions if it leads to crime.
Religious exchanges between the mainland and Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan should follow related national laws and regulations.