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Freedom of Religious Belief in China|
Information Office of the State Council
Of the People's Republic of China
October 1997, Beijing
I. The Present Conditions of Religion in China
China is a country with a great diversity of religious beliefs. The main religions are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism. Citizens of China may freely choose and express their religious beliefs, and make clear their religious affiliations. According to incomplete statistics, there are over 100 million followers of various religious faiths, more than 85,000 sites for religious activities, some 300,000 clergy and over 3,000 religious organizations throughout China. In addition, there are 74 religious schools and colleges run by religious organizations for training clerical personnel.
-Buddhism has a history of 2,000 years in China. Currently China has 13,000-some Buddhist temples and about 200,000 Buddhist monks and nuns. Among them are 120,000 lamas and nuns, more than 1,700 Living Buddhas, and 3,000-some temples of Tibetan Buddhism and nearly 10,000 Bhiksu and senior monks and more than 1,600 temples of Pali Buddhism.
-Taoism, native to China, has a history of more than 1,700 years. China now has over 1,500 Taoist temples and more than 25,000 Taoist priests and nuns.
-Islam was introduced into China in the seventh century. Nowadays in China there are ten national minorities, including the Hui and Uygur, with a total population of 18 million, whose faith is Islam. Their 30,000-odd mosques are served by 40,000 Imams and Akhunds.
-Catholicism was introduced into China intermittently in the seventh century, but it had not spread widely until after the Opium War in 1840. At present, China has four million Catholics, 4,000 clergy and more than 4,600 churches and meeting houses.
-Protestantism was first brought to China in the early 19th century and spread widely after the Opium War. There are about 10 million Protestants, more than 18,000 clergy, more than 12,000 churches and 25,000-some meeting places throughout China.
China has the following national religious organizations: Buddhist Association of China, Taoist Association of China, Islamic Association of China, Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, Chinese Catholic Bishops' College, Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee of the Protestant Churches of China, and China Christian Council.
Religious leaders and leading organs of the various religious bodies are selected and ordained in accordance with their own regulations.
Religious organizations in China run their own affairs independently and set up religious schools, publish religious classics and periodicals, and run social services according to their own needs. As in many other countries, China practices the principle of separating religion from education; religion is not a subject taught in schools of the popular education in China, although some institutions of higher learning and research institutes do teach or conduct research into religion. The various religious schools and institutes set up by the different religious organizations teach religious knowledge in line with their own needs. All normal clerical activities conducted by the clergy and all normal religious activities held either at sites for religious activities or in believers' own homes in accordance with usual religious practices, such as worshipping Buddha, reciting scriptures, going to church, praying, preaching, observing Mass, baptising, monkhood initiation, fasting, celebrating religious festivals, observing extreme unction, and holding memorial ceremonies, are protected by law as the affairs of religious bodies and believers themselves and may not be interfered with.