New Laws to Restrict Private Worship
Being a person of faith in China has just gotten much worse. The Chinese cabinet created a new set of rules massively restricting the religious freedom of their citizens. Citizens will be limited in funding for religious groups, online religious speech, and private religious worship.
The last restriction is an extension of recent crackdowns by several Chinese provisional governments on hidden churches and places of worship in private residents. While the rules are an update on a 2005 law passed, most of the original provisions affected religious practice in the public sphere. The specific targeting of private worship may signal an increased tightening of religious practice to eliminate it.
The reasons for the increased restrictions may be influenced by a number of factors. The President Xi Jinping has targeted “religious extremism” as a threat to China. This may be due to a recent report that China may become the most populous Christian nation by 2030. The country currently has 85 million Christians.
Additionally, the ruling Communist Party has had a “country first” policy where the first duty of every citizen is to the state. Any other strong affiliations, like religion, is in direct conflict with this political philosophy. The treatment of the Uighur Muslims and Falun Gong stand as direct examples of the types of actions that the Chinese government is willing to take to stop any religious movements.
China has a history of religious persecution. A new study by the U.S. government reported that China both intimidates and physical tortures members of religious organizations. It remains to be seen what the effect of China’s new policy will be on its citizens.