Chinese Communist Party seizes religious funding
New government measures will come into effect on June 1, placing the economics of religious sites in the hands of the United Front Labor Department and the Ministry of Finance. The new rules, which also regulate donations and offerings, aim to promote the “sinicization” of religion.
Rome (AsiaNews) – The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is cracking down on funding for religious groups.
Chinese Ministry of Finance and State Administration of Religious Affairs[*] (SARA) have jointly formulated financial management measures for religious activity sites, which will come into effect on June 1.
The new regulations aim to streamline the financial affairs (income, local and foreign donations and expenses) of religious entities.
Catholic sources said AsiaNews authorities may be trying to stem the abuse. For example, the contents of donation boxes must be counted and recorded by three people, a curious procedure.
The new rules impose greater government (i.e. party) control over religious activities. With the United Front Department of Labor and the Ministry of Finance now in charge of the economics of religious sites, consultation with religious personnel, believers and donors is sufficient.
Places of worship and their finances can only be used “only” in accordance with the instructions of the Communist Party, and not on the basis of the mission of the local community or the bishop.
Many official Catholic churches allow underground groups (recognized by the Vatican but not by the authorities) to use their premises, including chapels. Now it will be impossible because it is against the law and the new measures. The same goes for the use of money.
Economic problems could be causing problems in some places, such as the diocese of Xuanhua (Hebei), where the bishop Augustin Cui Tai continues to be persecuted.
In the underground community, some property is held by individuals (such as the bishop) and can be inherited by others. The new regulations make this illegal.
Under the new measures, religious groups are essentially treated as NGOs, with their finances and operations controlled by the government. Thus, they are not truly “non-governmental”.
The new rules also make false claims. Article 6 states that “the legal property and income of sites of religious activities shall be protected by law” and therefore cannot be violated by any organization or private person.
In fact, authorities seized property belonging to the Catholic Church, both official and underground, during the Cultural Revolution, which the government has never returned even though the law requires it.
In an interview in 2005, the researcher Antoine Lam explained that the assets of the Church are worth billions of dollars. Now, the financial control of religious groups reinforces the regime’s policy of sinicization of religion, a process officially launched in 2015.
New administrative measures for religious information services on the Internet entered into force on March 1 this year; now, it is no longer possible to carry out religious activities online in China without government permission.
In February, SARA released a set of administrative measures for religious personnel manage the clergy, monks, priests, bishops, etc.
In February 2018, the CPC introduced new regulations on religious activitiesthat religious personnel can exercise their functions only if they adhere to “official” bodies and submit to the Party.
As for the Catholic Church, despite the signing in 2018 of the Sino-Vatican agreement on episcopal appointments, which was renewed in October 2020, the persecution of Church officials, especially in the underground Church, continues continues.
[*] SARA is a government agency under the control of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.