New laws will infringe on religious freedom

Ying Fuk-Tsang, director of Divinity School, of The Chinese University of Hong Kong said that since China has introduced tougher religious regulations, believers must counter it by becoming more aware of how to fight for their rights. The regulations have come into effect since February 1.

Ying said that the amount of information needed would be based on how serious the laws were being implemented by the Regulations for Religious Affairs by higher and lower level communist officials. He cautioned that the laws would be applicable to open and officially recognized religious groupings. This would affect people practicing at home or privately as well. This reason alone, Ying emphasized, should push the believers to learn almost everything about the various legal options. This knowledge will help them to challenge any future unfair treatment.

The Chinese government has been tinkering with regulations heavily since first introducing them. The first draft was done in 2014. A complete version was finally released in 2017. The new structures were instantly attacked by critics. It was argued this was a clear way to violate the religious freedom of Chinese citizens. Confusion remains about the criteria that could be applied. The brand new regulations not only set out the requirements needed for the sanctioned religious venues, but can also be applicable to permissible activities like legal liability, rights over property, and education.

The newly formed religious affairs administrators, with their official guise as neighborhood committees, could be expected to exert more control over the people compared to their protection. Ying is convinced that the authorities also want tighter control over the colloquially named “gray church” communities. Grey church communities are private religious communities that are technically illegal, but are ignored by the Chinese government. The academician explained that the government tolerated them in the past. These establishments had a lot of leeway in managing their own affairs as the government took a benevolent view of them. He warned that the religious establishments which are loath to register could suddenly find themselves being subjected to much closer government observation. The new laws will be applicable to all religions and the places where their followers congregate.

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