III-1 Question: The United States again put China and some other countries on the list of "countries of particular concern" in its annual "International Religious Freedom Report" for 2006 for alleged "lack of religious freedom." How does China respond to this? What is the real situation of religious freedom there?
A: China's respect for religious freedom is deeply rooted in its historical and cultural traditions. In China, it is commonly acknowledged by both the government and the general public that religion will persist, so it will remain a long-term fundamental policy to guarantee religious freedom. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), the government's religious policy was violated, which caused disasters to the country's religions. Since initiation of its reform and opening up in 1978, China has implemented the policy of religious freedom in an all-round way. A large number of religious structures have been restored and opened, doctrines and cultures of different religions been promoted and religious successors cultivated.
The legal protection of citizens' right to freedom of religious belief in China is basically in accordance with the main contents of relevant international documents and conventions. In China, people enjoy freedom to practice their faith, conduct religious service and gatherings, and maintain religious venues. They also have the freedom to compile and distribute printed materials pertaining to religion or belief, celebrate religious festivals and hold religious rituals based on their faiths and commandments. Incomplete statistics show that China now has more than 100 million religious believers and 85,000 venues for religious activities, with some 300,000 clerics. There are more than 3,000 national and local religious organizations. Religious leaders and leading organs of various religious groups are selected and ordained in accordance with their own regulations. Religious organizations in China run their own affairs independently. Holding religious activities either at a religious venue or at home are decided by religious groups and individual believers on their own according to their faith practice, with all normal activities protected by law.
Nevertheless, since the 1980s some cult organizations have sprung up in China, which engage in illegal and even criminal activities under the signboard of religion. Their activities have seriously undermined the normal order of work and everyday life of people and have been detested by the majority of the public and religious communities. It has nothing to do with religion for China's judicial organs to punish those law-breakers and criminals according to law, with an aim to safeguarding the public interests and better protecting the people's right to freedom of religious belief. No country that practices the rule of law in the world today would tolerate illegal and criminal activities being carried out under the banner of religion.