Chinese Official Lowers Expectations of Reform of Laws Regulating Religion

October 25, 2004

According to AsiaNews, Ji Wenyuan, Deputy Director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), has said that in any reform of laws regulating religion, priority must be given to social stability. Speaking at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Ji said that China would not enact Western-style laws because its circumstances are different. Ji's speech appeared to have the purpose of lowering expectations recently created by a speech given by Zhang Xunmou, director of the SARA's Policy and Legal Department, which announced that the government is studying ways to remove tight control over religions, curb arbitrary interference, and give religious groups greater autonomy.

Ji's speech raises the question whether there is division and disagreement within the SARA, which is often considered one of the Chinese state organs most monolithically opposed to reform.