China has tightened regulations on religious freedom, intensifying punishments for unsanctioned activities and increasing its supervision of certain groups in a bid to “block extremism” and tackle what it sees as internal threats. The updated rules, released by China’s cabinet the State Council on yesterday, come as the country ratchets up already stringent controls on Muslim and Christian populations and include a ban on religious organisations accepting foreign donations.
China says it is facing a growing threat from domestic cults and radical Islam but critics have accused Beijing of a broader pattern of harassment detention and abuse. The latest measures focus on “maintaining legality, curbing illegality, blocking extremism, resisting infiltration and attacking crime”, according to a copy of the regulations posted on the State Council’s official website. “Any organization 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,” it said. Among other changes, the regulations, which will be implemented February 1, extend previous rules to include on line communications. Religious groups must be registered with the state, while unregistered organizations — which were already not allowed to set up places of worship — are now also prohibited from establishing schools.
The fines for organizing unapproved religious events have been hiked to up to 300,000 yuan ($46,400). Those providing the venue for such gatherings can now also be fined up to 200,000 yuan. The changes are part of a broader effort to put religious practice under the direct supervision of the state. China’s officially atheist Communist authorities are wary of any organized movements outside their control, including religious ones.