IV. Support for Independence and Initiative
in Management of Religious Affairs


China's religious affairs are handled by the various religious bodies, their clergy and followers themselves. China's religious affairs and religious bodies are not subject to any foreign domination. The Chinese government supports the management of religious affairs by the various religions themselves according to the Constitution and laws.

The principle of independence and taking the initiative in their own hands in the management of churches is a historical choice made by the Chinese religious believers of their own accord as part of the Chinese people's struggle against colonialist and imperialist aggression and enslavement. Following the Opium War of 1840 China declined to a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country. During this process Western Protestantism and Catholicism were used by colonialism and imperialism as a tool for aggression against China, and a number of Western missionaries played an inglorious part in this.

-They participated in the opium trade and in plotting the Opium War unleashed by Britain against China. In the 19th century Robert Morrison, a British missionary, and Karl Friedrich August Gutz, a German missionary, both working for the East India Company, participated in dumping opium in China. Some missionaries strongly advocated resort to force by Western powers to make the Qing government open its coastal ports, saying that it was only war that could open China to Christianity, and directly participated in the British mititary activities to invade China.

-They participated in the war of 1900 launched by the allied forces of eight powers against China. A number of missionaries, serving as guides, interpreters and information officers, took part in the slaughter of Chinese civilians and the robbing of money and property. According to Mark Twain, the renowned American writer, some of the missionaries imposed on the poor Chinese peasants fines 13 times the amount they were supposed to pay, driving their wives and innocent children to lingering death from starvation, so that they were thus able to use the money gained through such murder to propagate the Gospel.

-They directly took part in plotting and drafting unequal treaties, such as the Sino-British Treaty of Nanking of 1842, the Sino-American Treaty of Wanghea of 1844, the Sino-American and Sino-French treaties of Tientsin of 1858 and the Sino-French Convention of Peking of 1860. According to these unequal treaties, Western Catholic and Pretestant missionaries could lease land for building their own places of worship in trade ports and enjoyed the protection of local officials; missionaries could also freely lease or buy land for construction and other purposes in the provinces; local Chinese officials must treat kindly and protect those missionaries who came to inland regions to preach their religions; Chinese officials must not impose prohibitions on Chinese who professed a religious faith; etc.

-They enjoyed extraterritoriality, and were not governed by China's laws. The Western powers gave their missionaries in China protection on the strength of the consular jurisdiction they enjoyed. Taking advantage of extraterritoriality some Western missionaries, backed by the aggressive imperialist forces, went to inland China to build churches and set up parishes. They forcibly occupied land, and bullied and oppressed Chinese officials and civilians. These missionaries even wilfully extended the extraterritoriality to Chinese converts and interfered in Chinese judicial authority.

-They strengthened the control of the Western powers over China on the pretext of "religious cases," i.e., conflicts and disputes between Chinese people and the Western missionaries who incurred popular indignation by doing evil deeds under the protection of the unequal treaties. In the period between 1840 and 1900, some 400 such cases occurred in China. On the pretext of these religious cases the Western powers imposed military and political pressure on the Chinese government. They put forward various unreasonable demands, compelled the Chinese government to pay indemnities, and arrested and executed innocent people. Moreover, they even launched aggressive wars on such a pretext. In a case in Tianjin in 1870 alone, the Western powers compelled the Qing government to execute 20 people and exile 25.

-They obstructed and opposed China's struggle against fascism and the Chinese people's revolution. After Japan invaded Northeast China the Vatican took a stand which was, in fact, supporting the Japanese aggression. It took the lead in recognizing the puppet Manchukuo regime set up by the Japanese and sent a representative there. After the victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan some Western missionaries stirred up hostility against the people's revolution among the converts and even organized armed forces to help the Kuomintang fight in the civil war.

-They adopted a hostile attitude toward New China and plotted sabotage. After the founding of New China in 1949 the Vatican issued papal encyclicals several times instigating hatred against the new people's political power among the converts.

While playing an inglorious role in modern Chinese history, Western Catholicism and Protestantism manipulated and controlled Chinese churches turning them into the appendages to Western religious orders and mission societies. Under these circumstances Chinese clergymen and the vast majority of their followers had no rights. In the 1940s among the 20 archbishops in China there were 17 foreigners and only three Chinese; in the 143 parishes there were some 110 foreign bishops but only about 20 Chinese bishops.

Some Chinese Christians early on expressed their wish to cast off such control and began establishing their own independent Christian organizations. However, in the semi-colonial and semi-feudal old China it was absolutely impossible for Chinese churches to maintain real independence and realize self-management.

The founding of the People's Republic of China put an end to the era of semi-colonial and semi-feudal society in China, thus providing the historical conditions for Chinese Catholicism and Protestantism to become independent and self-managing. In July 1950, 40 leading figures from various religious denominations headed by Wu Yaozong published the "Three-Self Declaration," titled "The Way in Which the Chinese Christianity Works for New China's Construction," expressing the attitude of Chinese Christians who supported New China, and their determination to cast off imperialist influence and achieve the "Three Selfs" (self-administration, self-support and self-propagation) of Chinese churches. In September 1950, 1,527 leading Christians signed the declaration. Three or four years later the number of Christians who had signed the document reached more than 400,000, about two-thirds of the total number of Christians in the country. Christians have since then adhered to the principles of the "Three Selfs."

In November 1950 more than 500 Catholics in Guangyuan County, Sichuan, published the Declaration on the Catholic Reform Movement of Self-Support, advocating cutting off the relationship with imperialism in all aspects and setting up new churches on the basis of self-administration, self-support and self-propagation. The declaration was welcomed by the leading Catholic clergymen and other converts in all parts of China. Though the Vatican took repeated political actions of hostility against New China, the Chinese church reported the appointment of one acting bishop and two full bishops, selected in 1957 and 1958, to the Vatican. However, the Vatican refused to recognize them threatening to mete out extraordinary punishments, greatly hurting the feelings of the Chinese Catholics. Since then the Chinese Catholic church has firmly taken the way of selecting and ordaining its own bishops and independently managing the churches. In religious belief Chinese Catholicism is the same as Catholicisms anywhere else in the world, while in church administration all the internal affairs are handled according to decisions made by the Chinese Catholic church independently.

In the past few decades the Chinese Protestantism and Catholicism have stuck to the principle of independence and self-management, which has met with assent and support from the vast majority of believers and enabled the church and its religious activities to develop soundly. Now the total number of Chinese Christians is 14 times as many as in 1949. Chinese Catholicism has 115 parishes under the direction of Chinese bishops or priests.

While adhering to the principle of independence and self-administration, Chinese religions are active in making exchanges and contacts with their counterparts all over the world on the basis of equality and friendship. China is always open to foreign religious organizations and individuals who are friendly to China, respect China's sovereignty and Chinese religions' principle of independence and self-administration. China's Protestantism and Catholicism have maintained friendly contacts with churches in many countries. In February 1991 the China Christian Council officially joined the World Council of Churches. The Chinese Catholic Church has sent representatives to attend some international religious conferences successively, such as the Fifth World Conference on Religion and Peace and the World Catholic Youth Day. In recent years Chinese churches have sent quite a number of students to study abroad and invited foreign lecturers and scholars to teach in China's theological seminaries. Friendly international exchanges are also increasing in the areas of China's Buddhism, Taoism and Islam.

The Chinese government has consistently adhered to a peaceful foreign policy of independence and taking initiative in its own hands, and is willing to improve the relations with the Vatican. However, such improvement requires two basic conditions: First, the Vatican must end its so-called diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognize that the government of the People's Republic of China is the only legal government in China and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory. Second, the Vatican must not interfere in China's internal affairs on the pretext of religious affairs. In the first place, the relationship between China and the Vatican is one between two countries. Therefore, only when the relations between the two countries improve can religious issues be discussed. Whether the relations between China and the Vatican change or not, the Chinese government will, as always, support Chinese Catholicism which holds aloft the banner of patriotism, sticks to the principle of independence and self-management, and stands for selection and ordination of bishops by itself.