Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

No independent civil society in China

Once again, the Communist Party of China makes it clear, through government action, that civil society must be led (controlled) by the Party.

China Seeks Tighter Grip in Wake of a Religious Revival
The finances of religious groups will come under greater scrutiny. Theology students who go overseas could be monitored more closely. And people who rent or provide space to illegal churches may face heavy fines.

These are among the measures expected to be adopted when the Chinese government enacts regulations tightening its oversight of religion in the coming days, the latest move by President Xi Jinping to strengthen the Communist Party’s control over society and combat foreign influences it considers subversive…

Religion has blossomed in China despite the Communist Party’s efforts to control and sometimes suppress it, with hundreds of millions embracing the nation’s major faiths — Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Taoism — over the past few decades. But many Chinese worship outside the government’s official churches, mosques and temples, in unauthorized congregations that the party worries could challenge its authority…

The regulations follow the enactment of a law on nongovernmental organizations that increased financial scrutiny of civil society groups and restricted their contact with foreign organizations in a similar way…

But the rules on religion also pledge to protect holy sites from commercialization, allow spiritual groups to engage in charitable work and make government oversight more transparent. That suggests Mr. Xi wants closer government supervision of religious life in China but is willing to accept its existence…

The new regulations are more explicit about the party’s longstanding requirement that all religious groups register with the government, and the most vocal opposition so far has come from Protestant leaders unwilling to do so…

Many Christians contend that government-approved churches are tools of the state, as sermons are vetted to avoid contentious political and social issues and clergy are appointed by the party rather than congregants or, in the case of the Catholic Church, the Vatican…

The regulations also say for the first time that religion must not harm national security, which could give security services in China greater authority to target spiritual groups with ties overseas…

For traditional Chinese religions such as Buddhism and Taoism — which are practiced by 300 million to 400 million people and which the party views more favorably — the regulations appear intended to address a different problem: crass commercialization…

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