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CECC Quick Brief: Restrictions on Religious Freedom in China

Congressional-Executive Commission on China
December 15, 2008

The Chinese government strictly regulates religious practice. Religious adherents who run afoul of government and Communist Party policy risk harassment, detention, and other abuses. As a result, Chinese citizens are not able to fully exercise their right to freedom of religion.

Key Concerns Include:

  • The Chinese government recognizes only Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam, and Protestantism for limited state protection of religion. These groups are tightly controlled by the government and are required to submit to ongoing state oversight and approval of their activities.
    • The government has closed privately built Buddhist and Daoist temples. Authorities deny Tibetan Buddhists the freedom to express devotion to the Dalai Lama and subject Tibetan Buddhist practices and ceremonies to state regulation.
    • The Catholic church must submit to state interference in the selection of bishops.
    • Authorities tightly control Islamic practice. Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region face even harsher restrictions, as the government ties campaigns to control religion with broader security measures in the region.
    • Government officials have closed some unregistered Protestant house churches and detained church members.
  • Religious and spiritual groups not recognized by the government face the risk of negative repercussions and abuse. The government continues to ban Falun Gong, and detain or imprison practitioners.
  • Religious repression intensified in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games. Authorities targeted some religious leaders for harassment and detention, took steps to limit citizens' interaction with foreign religious groups, and carried out Olympics-related security campaigns that tightened religious repression in parts of China.
    • CECC Recommendations for Action by the Congress and Administration:

      • Call on the Chinese government to guarantee freedom of religion to all its citizens in accordance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to effectively implement and enforce such guarantees.
      • Support funding for non-government organizations that collect information on conditions for religious freedom in China and inform Chinese citizens of how to defend their right to freedom of religion.
      • Call on the Chinese government to release Chinese citizens detained or imprisoned in retaliation for pursuing their right to freedom of religion. Click here for a list of representative religious prisoner cases.

      For more detailed information on the state of religious freedom in China, see the CECC Web site and Section II-Freedom of Religion in the CECC 2008 Annual Report.

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