China’s state-controlled media announced that new policies under the “Administrative Measures for Religious Groups” will be enforced on religious groups and organizations in the country (1). According to Bitter Winter, a religious liberty and human rights watchdog in China, from 1 February 2020 policies proposed back in 2017 will come into full effect and require a total submission to the Chinese Communist Party under President Xi Jinping (2).
All religions will be obligated to “spread the principles of the CCP” and religious personnel and religious citizens are “to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, supporting the socialist system, adhering to and following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Article 5 of the new policy states, “Religious organizations must adhere to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, observe the constitution, laws, regulations, ordinances, and policies, adhere to the principle of independence and self-government, adhere to the directives on religions in China, implementing the values of socialism.”
Article 25 proposes the following laws,
 It shall be responsible for the establishment, change, cancellation of registration of religious organizations, and business review before the approval of the articles of association; review of the annual work report of religious organizations; together with relevant authorities, it shall guide the registration and liquidation of religious organizations;
 It shall supervise and guide religious groups to carry out activities and perform functions in accordance with the laws and regulations, and to deal with violations of laws, regulations, rules, policies and the articles of association of religious groups according to the law;
 Examining, supervising, and managing matters that religious groups will submit to the religious affairs department of the people’s government for approval in accordance with the law;
 It shall supervise and guide religious groups to establish and improve rules and regulations in accordance with the Constitution, laws, regulations, rules, policies, and actual work needs, and strengthen ideological, organizational, style, and institution-building;
 Other matters that require guidance and management as provided by laws and regulations.”
Such laws will compel religious persons, groups, and communities to submit all relevant decisions for their operations to the approval of the party while “administrative bodies” will control them through “guidance and supervision.” These bodies will deal with violations of laws, regulations, rules, and policies imposed on them by the CCP. Without the approval of the CCP, no activities in the name of religious groups can be carried out. As such, house churches and any other unregistered religious body will be operating illegally and therefore ripe for punishment. Sociologist of religion Massimo Introvigne states that this “rings a death bell for the Gray Market activities of house churches, dissident Catholic communities, and other unregistered religious bodies” (3) Religious organizations are also to promote the CCP and spread its ideology, rather than religion itself.
Importantly this legislation comes at a time when China has detained over one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in detention centers in the northwest of the country for so-called “re-education.” The state is also attempting to rewrite the Bible and the Qur’an to reflect socialist values. Also recently a pastor was sentenced to nine years in jail after increased crackdowns on unauthorized religious groups. Several churches have been ordered closed or destroyed by the government and members are often subject to harassment from the state.
1. Fox News. 2020. China imposes harsh new rules governing religious groups in 2020. Available.
2. Bitter Winter. 2019. China’s New Measures for Religious Groups 2019: From Bad to Worse. Available
3. Introvigne, Massimo. 2020. Religion in China in 2020: from bad to worse. Available.