Officials at all levels have been urged by President Jiang Zemin to effectively implement the policy of "freedom for religious belief" and conduct religious work according to laws.
Religious work enjoys an important status in the country's affairs, said Jiang at a three-day national work conference on the subject, which ended yesterday in Beijing.
Top Chinese leaders, including Li Peng, Zhu Rongji and Li Ruihuan, attended the meeting.
Under the new situation, the Party's leadership over religion should be strengthened, said Jiang. The work on religion is closely linked with the comity between different ethnic groups, social stability, national security and reunification, as well as China's relations with foreign countries, said Jiang.
He said the influence of religion on political and social lives in today's world should never be underestimated.
Jiang said Communist Party members do not believe in any religion but treat religion with a scientific point of view.
Freedom for religious belief is a basic right enjoyed by all citizens according to the Constitution, said Jiang, adding that to respect and protect such a right embodies the Party's commitment to protect human rights.
On the one hand, each person enjoys the freedom of believing or not believing in religion. While on the other hand, religious work should be conducted within the scope of Constitution and laws, said Jiang.
Religious works should not obstruct social work, working order and living order, he added.
Any religion is not allowed to interfere in the country's administrative, judicial and educational works, said Jiang.
Religions should never be allowed to be used for opposing the Party leadership and socialism system, destroying national reunification and ethnic unity, as well as harming national interests, according to Jiang.
He said religious people should love their country, support the socialism system and Party leadership, and obey the country's laws. China adopts the principle of separating politics from religion, Jiang said, stressing no religion has the right to override the Constitution and laws.
Jiang pointed out that the principle of independence must be followed and foreign interference in China's religious work should be absolutely prohibited.
Premier Zhu Rongji also delivered a speech at the meeting, saying cults are not religions and efforts should be furthered to fight against any illegal religions and prevent the occurring of new illegal religions.
(China Daily December 13, 2001)