Issued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the State Council on Some Problems Concerning Further Improving Work on Religion
(February 5, 1991)
TO: Party committees and people's governments of the various provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly un- der the Central People's Government, Party Committees of the various greater military areas, the various departments, minis- tries and commissions of the Party Central Committee and the State Council, the various general headquarters of the military commission, Party Committees of the various armed services and the various arms of the services, and the various people's organizations.
The Party's policy toward religion has been implemented step by step and our work on religion has achieved remarkable success since the Third Plenum of the Party's Eleventh Central Committee, as a result of the concerted efforts of the Party committees and governments at the various levels. We have opened and made arrangements for sites for religious activities, restored or established patriotic religious organizations, citizens' rights to freedom of religious belief, their normal reli- gious activities and the legitimate rights and interests of reli- gious organizations have been protected by the law and policy, criminal activities that violated the law perpetrated in the name of religion have been dealt with according to law, and religious activities in most areas have been normal. The patri- otic sentiments and socialist consciousness of religious figures have been enhanced. They support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system. They have energetically helped the Party and government implement their policy towards religion, and done much useful work in uphold- ing social stability and national unity in promoting the unification of the motherland and in conducting friendly international intercourse. The patriotic United Front of the religious circles of the various nationalities led by the Party has become further consolidated and strengthened. Religious believers of the vari- ous nationalities have actively participated in the construction of socialist material and spiritual civilization. Practice has demonstrated the correctness of the Party and government policy towards religion, and the overall situation in our work on religion is good.
But we must realize that hostile forces beyond our borders have all along been using religion as an important means to carry out their strategy of bringing about peaceful evolution in our country. They have continuously engaged in infiltration and disruptive activities against us. The national splittists have also used religion to stir up trouble, attack Party leader- ship and the socialist system, undermine the unification of the motherland and national unity. In certain places, a few hostile elements run rampant. They establish illegal organizations and try to wrest leadership of the monasteries, Taoist temples and churches from us. Some of them illegally opened bible colleges, convents and theological seminaries, trying to compete with us for the hearts and minds of young people. Some monasteries restored their feudal religious privileges, oppression and exploi- tation that had been abolished. At the grassroots level in some places, some people used religion to interfere with government administration, the judicial process and education in schools.
At the same time, we must also realize that there are quite a few problems in the implementation of the policy of freedom of religious belief. Certain local authorities violate the citizens's right to fieedom of religious belief, the legitimate rights and interest of the monasteries, Taoist temples and churches, inter- fere with normal religious activities of religious groups and procrastinate in restoring religious real estate, monasteries, Taoist temples and churches to their rightful owners. Social conflicts touched off by religious problems or the improper handling of religious issues broke out from time to time. Party committees and governments a t all levels must soberly realize the complexity and seriousness of these problems and attach great importance to work on religion.
The correct handling of the question of religion constitutes an important task in China's socialist construction, an impor- tant substance in the building of socialism with Chinese char- acteristics. It is of great significance and allows no negligence that we perform our work on religion successfully, so as to maintain social stability, promote national unity, the unifica- tion of the motherland and the building of the four modernizations. "The Basic Viewpoint and Basic Policy of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party Concern- ing the Religious Question in the Period of Socialism in China" (Document No. 19 issued by the Party Central Committee in 1982)is an important document that provides the guideline for work on religion. It must continue to be camed out conscien- tiously. Continuity and stability of the policy towards religion must be maintained. In the days to come, the basic task of the Party and government work on religion is conscientiously to implement the Party's policy toward religion, safeguard citizens' right to the freedom of religious belief, step up the education of the religious believers and figures in patriotism and socialism, bring their initiative into play, support them in their useful work, consolidate and develop our patriotic United Front with the religious circles, regulate religious affairs according to law, curb and crack down on illegal criminal activities perpetrated in the name of religion, resolutely curb the infiltration of hostile religious forces beyond our borders, and work for the safeguarding of stability, the promotion of unity, the unification of the motherland and bring prosperity to Chi- na. We now issue a circular on some problems concerning fur- ther improving our work on religion as follows:
I. Implement the policy of freedom of religious belief accu- rately and in an all-around manner.
Respect and protect the freedom of religious belief-this is a basic long-term policy of the Party and state concerning the question of religion. Freedom of religious belief is a right laid down in the Constitution for citizens. Citizens are free to be- lieve or not to believe in religion. No state organ, social, organi- zation or individual is allowed to force a citizen to believe or not to believe in religion. Citizens must not be discriminated against on the ground that they are religious believers or non-believers. Religious activities must be conducted within the framework of law and policy. The state protects normal reli- gious activities. Citizens, in exercising their rights to the free- dom of religious belief, must at the same time fiilfill their obli- gations. No one is allowed to use religion to oppose the leader- ship of the Party and the socialist system, to harm the unifica- tion of the country, social stability and national unity, to en- croach on the interest of society and collectives, or the legit- imate rights of other citizens. No one is allowed to use religion to interfere with government administration, the judicial, process, school education or public social education, to obstruct the practice of compulsory education, to restore the abolished sys- tem of feudal religious privileges, oppression and exploitation. Believers and non-believers, believers in different religions and sects should respect and unite with each other. In places where the majority of people are non-believers, attention should be paid to respecting and protecting the rights of the believers who are in a minority. In places where the majority are believ- ers, attention should be paid to respecting and protecting the rights of the non-believers who are in the minority, so that believers and non-believers could unite and work together in the cause of the building of socialist modernization.
In implementing the policy of freedom of religious belief, it is necessary firmly to correct the actions that violate the citizen's right to freedom of religious belief and the legitimate rights and interests of the religious circles. In places where there are not enough sites for religious activities, such sites should be provided for normal religious activities. The religious real estate problem left over from history should be handled prudently, so as to unite with the masses of religious believers and promote state and social stability.
II. Regulating religious affairs according to the law.
Regulating religious affairs according to law means that the government administers and oversees the enforcement of the laws, regulations and policies concerning religion. The government protects the legitimate rights and interests of reli- gious bodies, monasteries, Taoist temples and churches accord- ing to law; it protects the clergy and lay believers in their nor- mal religious activities; it prevents and curbs the lawless ele- ments who use religion and religious activities to stir up trouble, violate the law and commit crimes; it curbs the hostile forces beyond our borders who use religion for infiltration pur- poses. The objective of regulating religious affairs is to channel religious activities into the framework of laws, regulations and policy, and not to interfere in the normal religious activities or the internal affairs of religious bodies.
All sites of religious activities must be registered according to law (the specific procedures will be laid down separately). Those registered sites of religious activities are protected by law. They are administered according to the democratic princi- ple by the patriotic religious organizations and the clergy under the administrative leadership of the government department in charge of religious affairs. The opening of new sites for reli- gious activities must be approved by people's governments above the county level. Preaching and missionary work by self-styled preachers and other illegal missionary work must be firmly curbed. Those bible colleges, convents and theological seminaries that had been opened illegally must be banned.
China's religious bodies and religious affairs must adhere to the principle of independence and run their churches them- selves free from control by outside forces. International reli- gious exchanges should be conducted actively and correctly on the basis of equality and friendship. Attempts by hostile forces beyond our borders to control China's religion must be resolute- ly resisted. No religious organizations or individuals from out- side the country are allowed to interfere in China's religious affairs, establish offices in China, build monasteries, Taoist temples or churches, or engage in missionary work. Religious publications, audio and video tapes and other propaganda ma- terials from abroad must be strictly controlled according to rules laid down by the government departments concerned. Those materials that incite people against the four basic princi- ples or the government, or contain other reactionary contents should be confiscated according to law. No one is allowed to accept religious subsidies or missionary funds from foreigners whose aim is infiltration. Chinese religious organizations, mon- asteries, Taoist temples and churches must first obtain approv- al from people's governments at the provincial level or the Bureau of Religious M a i r s of the State Council before they can accept significant donations from foreign religious organiza- tions or religious believers. Similar approval is required of Chinese religious organizations, monasteries, Taoist temples or churches if they are to invite foreign religious organizations or personages to visit China or accept the latter's invitation for a visit abroad. Activities that are especially important and in- volve foreigners must be reported to the State Council for ap- proval. Non-religious organizations must report to the Religious Affairs department when they invite or receive [foreign] organi- zations with a religious background or very influential religious personages who come for a visit and tour in China. When they engage in exchanges and cooperation with foreigners that in- volve religious organizations outside the country or their affili- ated institutions or individuals, the cooperation agreements signed by the economic and trade, scientific and technological, cultural, educational, health, sports or tourist departments must not contain stipulations about missionary work, the es- tablishment of religious institutions, or the building of monasteries, Taoist temples or churches, or any other religious matter.
Legislation of laws governing religion should be speeded up. The Religious Affair Bureau of the State Council should, in real earnest, draR the administrative regulations governing religious affairs. The provinces, autonomous regions and mu- nicipalities directly under the central government may also lay down local administrative rules governing religious affairs in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations of the coun- try and in the light of actual local conditions.
People's political power at the grassroots level should strengthen their leadership over work on religion, conscien- tiously carry out the Party and government policy towards reli- gion, help the clergy and lay believers manage their places of religious activities successfully and engage in religion activities according to law.
III . Let the patriotic religious organizations play their role to the full.
The patriotic religious organizations serve as a bridge by which the Party and government unite with and educate reli- gious personages. Letting these organizations play their role to the full is an important organizational guarantee for the suc- cessful implementation of the Party's policy towards religion and the normalization of religious activities. In certain places the patriotic religious organizations have not received sufficient encouragement to play their full role, and this failure of the local authorities must be corrected. These authorities should support and help the patriotic religious organizations strength- en their own building, carry on their activities independently according to their own characteristics and rules, and bring their initiative into full play. They should be encouraged and supported to run their production, service, and public welfare undertakings successfully in order to become self-supporting. Help should be given in providing them with office space and operational expenses, and in tackling the difficulties in the livelihood of the clergy in certain areas so as to provide the necessary conditions for them to go ahead with their work. All patriotic religious organizations must accept the leadership of the Party and the government, abide by the law of the land, carry forward the tradition of self-education and constantly
educate their religious staff in patriotism, socialism, the policy on current development, laws and regulations of the country, and steadily enhance their consciousness in defending the in- terests of the state and the nation and upholding the principle of independence and managing their religious undertakings themselves. The overwhelming majority of the Chinese religious per- sonages are patriotic and law abiding. They have over a long period of time cooperated with the Party and the government and constitute an important force in maintaining state and social stability, keeping in touch with the lay believer and successfully running their religious affairs. Party and govern- ment leading organs at all levels must always listen to the opinions and suggestions offered by the patriotic religious orga- nizations and personages, and fully consult them on important matters concerning religion. They must support and assist the patriotic religious organizations in successfully running the theological seminaries to foster in a planned and organized way a corps of religious staff who love the motherland, accept Party leadership, are resolute in taking the socialist road, uphold the unification of the motherland and national unity, versed in religious learning and capable of keeping in touch with the masses of lay believers. At the present moment, training should be stepped up for those who are in charge of the monasteries, Taoist temples, churches and other places of worship.
IV. Resolutely curb those who use religion to engage in criminal activities.
At the same time as we protect the right of citizens to freedom of religious belief and their normal religious activities, we must firmly crack down according to law on how those counterrevolutionary elements and other criminal offenders who use religion to engage in disruptive activities. Public secu- rity departments at all levels must take forceful measures and resolutely curb those who use religion to stir up trouble, under- mine public safety and weaken the unification of the country and national unity. Those who violate the Criminal Code must be dealt with according to law. Those chief culprits who collude with hostile forces outside the country to endanger China's security must be severely punished. Illegal religious organiza- tions must be firmly outlawed. Those places of worship that engage in illegal activities should be criticized, educated, and asked to amend their ways within a stated time if the case is not so serious. Repeat offenders and serious cases should be dealt with according to law.
In our work, we must strictly distinguish between the two different types of contradictions and handle them correctly, have a correct grasp of policy, unite with and rely on the patri- otic force of the religious circles, divide and disintegrate the hostile forces, win over those under their influence and control, and isolate the few principal culprits.
The law enforcement departments of the country must make judicial explanations according to law when punishing those who use religion to engage in criminal activities. The public security and procuratorial departments and the courts should coordinate their efforts in curbing criminal activities ac- cording to law.
V. Strengthen the organ of work on religion and step up the building of a corps of cadres working on religious matters.
In order to improve our work on religion further, it is nec- essary to strengthen the government organs for work on reli- gion. The governments of provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government), munici- palities (regions and prefectures) and those counties (districts) that carry a heavy load of work on religion should establish organs to handle work on religion as part of the government setup. The other counties (districts) should keep their organs for work on religion provided these are already in place. Those counties without such organs may share offices with the rele- vant departments, staffed by person($ specially assigned to handle work on religion full time. Those townships facing the task of handling religious affairs should have someone in charge of such work, on a full-time basis if the task is a serious one.
Special importance should be attached to the training of cadres who would handle religious affairs, and their compe- tence must be constantly improved. Those who handle religious affairs must fully realize the significance and responsibility of their job, make a serious study of Marxist philosophy, religious theories, the Party's principles and policies, be versed in the relevant laws and knowledge in work on religion, good at unit- ing with religious personages and lay believers, so as to turn oneself into a cadre that handles religious affairs with good political qualities, a fine work style and highly knowledgeable in religious matters. Party committees and governments at all show solicitude for cadres handling religious matters, politically and in their work and livelihood.
VI. Strengthen Party leadership in work on religion.
Party leadership in work on religion is primarily political leadership. The Party is in charge of political orientation and the major principles and policies. Party committees and govern- ments a t all levels must place work on religion on their agenda, study and analyze the situation in work on religion at regular intervals, seriously check on the implementation of the policy towards religion, promptly solve any problem, mobilize the entire Party, government at all levels and all social forces and have them attach importance to and show solicitude for suc- cessful work on religion, so as to make religion fit into the socialist society.
Responsible comrades of the Party and government at all levels and the United Front departments of the Party committees should work successfully with the representative religious figures, improve their contacts with these figures, explain the Party's principles and policies to them and inform them of relevant matters, listen to their opinions with an open mind, and help them solve problems in their work, Party committees and governments at all levels must strengthen their political and ideological work, instruct the propaganda departments to educate the broad masses in patriotism, socialism and national unity, educate the masses, young- sters in particular, in dialectical materialism and historical materialism (including atheism) and foster the youngsters to become a generation of new people with high ideals and moral standards and who are well educated and disciplined. Instruc- tions and assistance should be given the trade unions, the Communist Youth League and women's federations and have them launch healthy and useful activities, show solicitude for and give assistance to employees, young people and women in solving difficulties in their work and livelihood, inculcate them with a correct view of birth, old age, sickness and death as well as good or ill luck, disasters and good fortune, so that they can acquire a scientific world view and outlook on life. The publi- cation of works that touch on religion must neither run counter to the Party and government policy toward religion, nor hurt the religious feelings of the believers, nor distort history by the use of religion to undermine the unification of the country and national unity.
Communist Party members are allowed neither to believe in religion, nor participate in religious activities. Those Party members who take part in religious activities should be sub- jected to patient education so that they can acquire a correct world outlook and draw a line of demarcation between atheism and theism and strengthen their faith in communism. Those who refuse to amend their ways should be persuaded to leave the Party. Those who take part in inciting religious fanaticism and lend support to the indiscriminate building of monasteries, Taoist temples or churches should be sternly criticized and educated. Those who refuse to repent should be expelled from the Party. In those minority areas where virtually everyone is a religious believer, Communist Party members working a t the grassroots level may take part in certain traditional mass ac- tivities with a tinge of religion in accordance with the relevant guidelines laid down by the Central Committee of the Party.
Upon receipt of this circular, Party committees and govern- ments throughout the country should conscientiously sum up their experiences in handling religious matters in recent years, draw the necessary lessons on the basis of an overall review of the implementation of the policy towards religion, draw up specific measures in the light of local realities, and conscien- tiously carry them out. The Party committees and governments of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government should send written reports of their review and summation to the Central Committee of the Party and the State Council.