China's New Regulation on Religious Affairs: A Paradigm Shift?

2255 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 | Monday, March 14, 2005 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Transcript (PDF)

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China held another in its series of staff-led Issues Roundtables, entitled "China's New Regulation on Religious Affairs: A Paradigm Shift?" on Monday, March 14, from 2:00 to 3:30 PM in Room 2255 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

All CECC hearings and Issues Roundtables are open to the public and the press. Members of the public who wish to attend do not need to respond to this message or otherwise register. News media representatives should see the final paragraph of this announcement.

This Roundtable examined China's new religious regulation effective this year on March 1. Government officials and experts have hailed the new regulation as a "paradigm shift" in China's treatment of religion. One PRC official claimed that the new regulation sets clear limits on officials' exercise of power over religion, safeguards religious freedom, and moves from direct administrative control to a system of self-government by religious groups.

Human rights advocacy groups reject these claims, arguing that increased detail in the regulation will reduce believers' already limited ability to worship freely in China. Some charge that the drafters' goal was a more efficient "rule by law," rather than "rule of law" protection of citizens' rights. They also suggest that the details of the new law are less significant than simultaneous official actions, such as the arrest of house church leader Pastor Zhang Rongliang within days after the announcement of the new rules, and harsher Party policy, particularly in ethnic regions.

Questions examined during the Roundtable included:

  • Is the new regulation likely to increase or decrease the role of the State in religious life?
  • Does the new regulation offer believers any redress against abuse?
  • Will the new rules legalize a greater variety of worship beyond the currently accepted five "official" religions? Will China's indigenous religions be allowed more scope under the new regulation?
  • Will the regulation's guarantee of freedom of religion survive broad prohibitions against "using religion to harm national interests, society's public interests, and citizens' legal rights and interests"?

Dr. Carol Lee Hamrin, consultant and Research Professor, George Mason University

Professor Daniel Bays, Professor of History and head, Asian Studies Program, Calvin College

Ms. Mickey Spiegel, Senior Researcher, Human Rights Watch

Submitted for the Record:

Human Rights in China: "China's New Regulations on Religious Affairs: A Paradigm Shift?"