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Hu reiterates commitment to religious freedom
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President Hu Jintao on Wednesday reiterated a policy of free religious belief while stressing law-abiding management on religious affairs and support to self-governance of religious groups.

Hu, also the general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, made the statement at a meeting of the members of the Political Bureau of the 17th CPC Central Committee in their study on religious issues at home and abroad.

"We shall fully carry out the Party's policy of free religious belief and manage the relevant affairs in line with the law," he said.

The Party and government shall encourage believers of all religions to keep their patriotic tradition and contribute to the development of Chinese society and unification of the motherland, he said.

China's management of religion would be based on human understanding, he said, adding mutual respect was a must.

"The Party and government shall reach out to religious believers in difficulties and help them through their problems," he said.

Hu also stressed the training and promotion of religious professionals, saying that the CPC would help and support religious groups to improve self governance, voice the opinions of its followers and protect their legal rights and interests.

Since last year a number of training programs have brought together religious leaders, theology teachers and officials with religion-related government departments. They took courses on religious knowledge such as history of world religions and ethics, as well as practical courses in management theories, psychology and law.

The CPC is atheistic but allows freedom of religious beliefs. China is home to 100 million religious faithful, largely Buddhists, Taoists, Christians, Catholics and Islamites.

At the 17th CPC National Congress ending in late October, the Party for the first time in its history has mentioned the word "religion" in an amendment to its Constitution.

To incorporate into its Constitution the principles and policies the Party has formulated for guiding efforts to strengthen the work related to ethnic and religious affairs, among others, is conducive to their full implementation and getting better results in the Party's work in this area, said a resolution on the amendment to the Constitution.

The CPC recognized that religions are a constant for a long time in the Chinese socialist society, Hu said at Wednesday's meeting.

To properly understand and manage the religious affairs was vital to the work of the Party, the peace and stability of Chinese society and the process to build a moderately prosperous society of all respects, he said.

"We shall fully understand the new problems and challenges to manage religious affairs so that we can do it right," he said.

As the host country of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, China has promised to offer religious services for foreigners arriving for the Games. It is working on religious facilities at the Olympic venues with the help of the International Olympic Committee and referring to the practices at previous Games.

(Xinhua News Agency December 20, 2007)

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