Anhui Government Amends Provincial Religious Regulation
The Anhui Province People's Congress Standing Committee issued a decision on June 29 that amended its 1999 Anhui Province Regulation on Religious Affairs. The decision made the Anhui government the fifth provincial-level government to amend or issue a new comprehensive regulation on religious affairs since the national Regulation on Religious Affairs (RRA) entered into force in March 2005.
The Anhui Province People's Congress Standing Committee issued a decision on June 29 that amended its 1999 Anhui Province Regulation on Religious Affairs. The decision made the Anhui government the fifth provincial-level government to amend or issue a new comprehensive regulation on religious affairs since the national Regulation on Religious Affairs (RRA) entered into force in March 2005. Henan and Shanxi provinces both issued new regulations in July 2005, and Shanghai municipality and Zhejiang province amended earlier regulations in April 2005 and March 2006, respectively.
The Anhui decision makes only a few amendments to the original regulation, in contrast to the detailed amendments issued in Shanghai and Zhejiang. The decision reflects a modest decentralization of authority, but nonetheless maintains strict controls over registered religious communities. Article 14 now specifies that when registered clergy are invited to lead "religious activities" in other provinces or outside clergy are invited to Anhui, the relevant religious organization within a given city must notify the city-level religious affairs bureau (RAB) after the religious organization has approved the invitation. The regulation previously required a provincial-level religious organization to approve the invitation and notify the provincial RAB of the event. The second amendment, to Article 34, removes a previous requirement that students applying to religious institutions outside the province must report their application for the record to the provincial RAB. To attend an out-of-province religious institution, such applicants still must obtain a recommendation from the provincial-level religious organization.
The amended Anhui regulation retains provisions that differ from the national RRA. Although Article 13 of the RRA and a related new national regulation stipulate new procedures for registering religious venues, Article 19 of the Anhui regulation continues to refer to a now-annulled regulation in its registration procedures. In addition, Article 2 of the Anhui regulation retains a reference to five recognized religions, although the RRA does not include such a reference. Shanghai and Zhejiang amended their regulations to remove previous mentions of the five religions, although the new regulation from Henan refers to them.
Inconsistencies between local and national regulations on religion, as well as the failure of many provinces to amend or issue new regulations, call into question government efforts to promote implementation of the RRA. In some cases, such variations in religious regulations and religious policy can result in greater accommodation of religious communities. For example, regulations from Heilongjiang province and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (IMAR) recognize the Orthodox Church, even though central government policy does not. In addition, local authorities have registered Orthodox communities in cities in Heilongjiang, the IMAR, and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. At the same time, such inconsistencies cause uncertainty about government actions regarding religion and can result in a more restrictive environment for religious practice than already provided for under the national RRA.
For more information on religion in China, see section V(d), Freedom of Religion, in the CECC 2006 Annual Report.