Religions have become more popular in China, but the government tries now to tighten rules for religious group, writes journalist Ian Johnson, author of the upcoming book The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao in the New York Times. Rules on religion are changed for the first time in a decade.
The finances of religious groups will come under greater scrutiny. Theology students who go overseas could be monitored more closely. And people who rent or provide space to illegal churches may face heavy fines.
These are among the measures expected to be adopted when the Chinese government enacts regulations tightening its oversight of religion in the coming days, the latest move by President Xi Jinping to strengthen the Communist Party’s control over society and combat foreign influences it considers subversive.
The rules, the first changes in more than a decade to regulations on religion, also include restrictions on religious schools and limits on access to foreign religious writings, including on the internet. They were expected to be adopted as early as Friday, at the end of a public comment period, though there was no immediate announcement by the government.
Religion has blossomed in China despite the Communist Party’s efforts to control and sometimes suppress it, with hundreds of millions embracing the nation’s major faiths — Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Taoism — over the past few decades. But many Chinese worship outside the government’s official churches, mosques and temples, in unauthorized congregations that the party worries could challenge its authority.
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