here are many religions in China, such as Buddhism, Daoism, Islam,
Catholicism and Protestantism. Among them Buddhism, Daoism and Islam
are more widely accepted. It is difficult to count the number of
Buddhist and Daoist believers, since there are no strict admittance
rites. Minority nationalities such as the Hui, Uygur, Kazak, Tatar,
Tajik, Uzbek, Kirgiz, Dongxiang, Salar and Bonan believe in Islam,
a total of 17 million people. There are 3.5 million and 4.5 million
people in China following Catholicism and Protestantism respectively.
China's Constitution stipulates that citizens enjoy freedom of
religious belief. The state protects normal religious activities
and the lawful rights and interests of the religious circles. The
Criminal Law, Civil Law, Electoral Law, Military Service Law and
Compulsory Education Law and some other laws make clear and specific
provisions protecting religious freedom and equal rights of religious
citizens. No state organ, social organization or individual may
compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion;
nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do
not believe in, any religion. State functionaries who illegally
deprive a citizen of the freedom of religious belief shall be investigated,
and legal responsibility affixed where due according to Article
147 of the Criminal Law.
The government has established departments of religious affairs
responsible for the implementation of the policy of religious freedom.
During the "cultural revolution," the government's religious policy
was violated. After the "cultural revolution," especially since
China initiated the reform and opening to the outside world, the
Chinese government has done a great deal of work and made notable
achievements in restoring, amplifying and implementing the policy
of religious freedom and guaranteeing citizens' rights in this regard.
With the support and help of the Chinese government, religious
facilities destroyed during the "cultural revolution" have gradually
been restored and repaired. By the end of 1989, more than 40,000
monasteries, temples and churches had been restored and opened to
the public upon approval of the governments at various levels. Houses
and land used for religious purposes are exempted from taxes. Temples,
monasteries and churches which need repair but lack money get assistance
from the government. Since 1980, financial allocations from the
central government for the maintenance of temples, monasteries and
churches have reached over 140 million yuan. The maintenance of
the Potala Palace in Tibet received 35 million yuan from the government.
Local governments also allocated funds for the maintenance of temples,
monasteries and churches.
There are now eight national religious organizations in China.
They are: the China Buddhist Association, the China Daoist Association,
the China Islamic Association, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association,
the National Administration Commission of the Chinese Catholic Church,
the Chinese Catholic Bishops College, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement
Committee of the Protestant Churches of China and the China Christian
Council. There are also 164 provincial-level and more than 2,000
county-level religious organizations. All religious organizations
and all religious citizens can independently organize religious
activities and perform their religious duties under the protection
of the Constitution and the law. There are 47 religious colleges
in China, such as the Chinese Institute of Buddhist Studies, the
Institute of Islamic Theology, the Jinling Union Theological Seminary
of the Chinese Protestant Churches in Nanjing, the Chinese Catholic
Seminary and the Chinese Institute of Daoist Studies. Since 1980,
more than 2,000 young professional religious personnel have been
graduated from religious colleges and more than 100 religious students
have been sent to 12 countries and regions of the world for further
studies. China has more than ten religious publications and about
200,000 professional religious personnel -- nearly 9,000 of them
are deputies to the people's congresses and members of the Chinese
People's Political Consultative Conference at various levels. Along
with deputies and members from other circles, they participate in
discussions of state affairs and enjoy equal democratic rights politically.
In China, because of these policies, different religions and religious
organizations as well as religious people and nonreligious people
respect each other and live in harmony.
The religious freedom that Chinese citizens enjoy under the Constitution
and the law entails certain obligations stipulated by the same.
The Constitution makes it clear that no one may make use of religion
to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health
of other citizens or interfere with the state's educational system.
Those who engage in criminal activities under the subterfuge of
religion shall be dealt with according to law, whether they are
religious people or not. Law-breaking believers, like other law-breaking
citizens, are dealt with according to law. Among the religious people
who were dealt with according to law, some were engaged in subversion
against the state regime or activities endangering national security,
some instigated the masses to defy state laws and regulations, others
incited the masses to infighting that seriously disturbed public
order, and still others swindled money, molested other people physically
and mentally and seduced women in the name of religion. In short,
none of them were arrested only because of their religious beliefs.
Guided by the principles of independence, self-rule and self-management,
Chinese religions oppose any outside control or interference in
their internal affairs so as to safeguard Chinese citizens' real
enjoyment of freedom of religious belief. Before the founding of
the People's Republic of China, China's Catholic and Protestant
churches were all under the control of foreign religious forces.
Dozens of "foreign missions" and "religious orders and congregations"
carved out spheres of influence on the Chinese land, forming many
"states within a state." At that time there were 143 Catholic dioceses
in China, but only about 20 bishops were Chinese nationals -- and
they were powerless -- a good indication of the semi-feudal and
semi-colonial nature of the old Chinese society. Chinese Catholic
and Protestant circles resented this state of affairs and, as early
as in the 1920s, some insightful people proposed that the Chinese
church do its own missionary work, support itself and manage its
own affairs. But these proposals were not realized in old China.
After the founding of New China, Chinese religious circles rid themselves
of foreign control and realized self-management, self-support and
self-propagation. The Chinese people finally control their own religious
The Chinese government actively supports Chinese religious organizations
and religious personnel in their friendly exchanges with foreign
religious organizations and personnel on the basis of independence,
equality and mutual respect. International relationships between
religious circles are regarded as part of the non-governmental exchange
of the Chinese people with other peoples of the world. In recent
years, Chinese religious organizations have established and developed
friendly relations with more than 70 countries and regions and sent
delegations to many international religious conferences and symposiums.
Chinese religious groups have joined world religious groups such
as the World Fellowship of Buddhists, the Supreme Council for Islamic
Affairs, the World Conference on Religion and Peace, the Asian Conference
on Religion and Peace and the World Council of Churches. Since 1955,
excluding the "cultural revolution" period, the Chinese Muslims
have never stopped their pilgrimages to Mecca. The Chinese government
has offered all kinds of facility and assistance for these trips.
Between 1955 and 1990 more than 11,000 Chinese Muslims participated
in the Mecca pilgrimages, several dozen times the total before the
founding of New China. In recent years the annual number of pilgrims
has surpassed 1,000 -- 1,500 in 1987, 1,100 in 1988, 2,400 in 1989,
1,480 in 1990, and 1,517 in 1991.