Church officials fear that newly revised religious affairs regulations released by the Chinese government, supposedly aimed at protecting national security, will be used to further suppress religious activities.
Earlier in September, Premier Li Keqiang announced that a state council order on the new regulations would take effect on 1st February.
Anthony Lam, executive secretary of the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong, told ucanews.com that the new provisions showed authorities had not listened to opinions expressed by religious communities during public consultations.
Total religious control was the goal, he said, whereas a 2005 version had been more balanced and moderate.
The changes reflected differing governing styles of former president Hu Jintao and current President Xi Jinping, he added.
Lam cited tighter restrictions in the revised regulations on “unauthorised religious” venues. He questioned whether a home display about Zen meditation exercises could, for example, be deemed illegal.
He stressed that both open and underground communities of the Catholic Church in China would be affected.
Because of loopholes in the regulations, the open communities – whose leaders register with the government – could be subjected to cash extortion demands over what authorities considered to be “unauthorised” religious venues, he added.
A draft of the regulations was released in 2014, but a finalised version was only recently made public. The regulations include chapters on general provisions as well as religious groups, venues, personnel, property and legal responsibilities. Detailed provisions on what constitutes religious institutes and religious activities are also covered, ucanews.com reported.
Picture: An elderly man prays during Mass in 2007 in Shanghai. As young people move to cities, Catholic grandparents in rural areas are passing on the faith to their grandchildren. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec).