China tightens regulations on religious freedom to block terrorism, tackle internal threats

China tightens regulations on religious freedom to block terrorism, tackle internal threats

Beijing/ China, September 8: In order to ‘block extremism’ and tackle internal threats, China has tightened regulations on religious freedom. Punishments are raised against unsanctioned activities.

China’s cabinet the State Council on Thursday released the updated rules as the country ratchets up stringent controls on Muslims and Christian populations. They have also included a ban on religious organisations that accept foreign donations.

China claims that they are facing threat from domestic rules and radical Islam. However, critics accuse Beijing of broader pattern of abuse, detention and harassment.

The latest updates posted on the State Council’s official website focus on “maintaining legality, curbing illegality, blocking extremism, resisting infiltration and attacking crime.” It also says, “any organisation or individual may not use religion to carry out illegal activities such as endangering national security, undermining social order…and other activities that harm national interests.”

The regulations will be implemented from February 2nd, extending the previous rules to include online online communication.

Religious groups need to be registered with the state. Unregistered organisations, which were not allowed to set up places of worship, are now prohibited from establishing schools.

Fines for organising unapproved religious functions have been raised to up to 300,000 yuan ($46,400). A fine of up to 200,000 yuan will be issued to those providing the venue for such gatherings.

Regulations are to be implemented in order to place the religious practise under direct supervision of the state. Including the religious ones, China’s officially atheist Communist authorities are wary of any organised movements outside their control.

As per media reports, leaders from China’s five officially recognised religions (Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam and Protestant Christianity) on Wednesday agreed that “the direction of religions is to integrate them with Chinese culture”.

Tightening restrictions on freedom of speech and jailing hundreds of activists and lawyers, Beijing stepped up its crackdown on civil society since President Xi Jinping ascended the throne in 2012.

Beijing claim it upholds the principle that the constitution guarantees freedom of religious belief. However annual report released last month from US State Department says that in 2016, China “physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups”.

The report shows the arrest and harassment of church leaders in eastern Zhejiang province. They were arrested for opposing a government campaign that asked to remove crosses from churches.

China refused the violations mentioned in the report, and stated “ignores facts”.

The mostly Muslim Uighur population, in China’s far western Xinjiang region, has struggled with increasingly strict curbs on their faith, which included ban on beards and public prayers.

According to right groups, several Tibetan monks have died in self-immolation protests in recent months.