The Times of India reports that the atheist government of China is set to “implement the regulations on religious affairs” in order to promote “social harmony.”
The statement that notified the world of this new Chinese government policy came from Jia Qinglin, the chairman of something called the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Here is his statement, as it was translated into English by the Times of India:
“We should fully follow the policy on freedom of religious belief, implement the regulations on religious affairs, and conduct thorough research on important and difficult issues related to religion.”
He then went on to justify this by saying that he felt that it is the government’s responsibility to “guide religious leaders and believers to improve their lives, and make full use of their positive role in promoting social harmony.”
There can be little doubt about what that means in plain, non-bureaucratic English (or Chinese); it means that the various non-atheist institutions in the country will either ‘toe the government line’ or they will be punished for promoting ‘social disharmony’.
Actually nothing has changed except the perceived legality of the government’s stranglehold on organized religion (or any other individuals or organizations that dare to publicly criticize or rebel against the Chinese government).
Statistically there are very few members of organized religions in China. Of the estimated 1.3 billion people in China there are, officially, only 100 million people who belong to Christian, Buddhist, Islamic or other religions. Like most things in China, that number of 100 million may be made up but it still paints a fairly accurate picture of the situation. In view of the small percentage of religious believers in China, this new edict regarding religion says something very important: the powerful, omnipotent Chinese government is as timid as a rabbit when faced with any potential religious activism against the government — especially with the Olympics coming to China.
The Times of India: Religion for harmony
Religious Intelligence: China ‘can use religion to enhance social harmony’
Vital Signs: Has Communist China Caught the Olympic Spirit?
Global Politics Online: China – Political Monitor