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By Lindsey Carpenter:
“No State organ, public organization, or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The State protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair[s] the health of citizens or interfere[s] with the educational system of the State. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.” Xianfa art. 36 (1982) (China), translated in Constitution of the People’s Republic of China ( Nat’l Cong. Of the People’s Republic of China).
On the surface, China’s constitution appears to protect the freedom of religion. However, the application of China’s constitution is more persuasive than mandatory authority for the formation of law. The restrictions imposed on Shaanxi Province by the People’s Congress of Shaanxi Province illustrates the discrepancy between the letter and spirit of China’s Constitution freedom of religion with the actual religious laws. According to Chapter 2, Article 8 of the Regulations of Shaanxi Province on Religious Affairs, in order for a religious group to be established within Shaanxi Province, the group must file an application, undergo an examination and gain consent from Shaanxi’s Province Department of Religious Affairs. 2008 China Law, 4-5, LEXUS 6732. The applicant must then apply to the Civil Affairs Department to gain official registration; the civil affairs department then will record the registration with all relevant, higher administration departments. Id. The government must regulate and approve a religious group’s publicly published audio, print, or electronic information. Id. at 6. If the religious group wishes to conduct new construction or reconstruction, the plans must be examined, approved, and registered by the government. Id. at 9. Religious groups are required to submit to government surveillance and cannot accept foreign funds. Id. at 9, 19. Chapter 8, Article 37 bans foreigners from spreading religion to Chinese. Id. at 18. The direct regulation of religious groups contradicts China’s Constitution that “No State organ, public organization, or individual may compel citizens to . . . not believe in, any religion.” Xianfa art. 36. Indeed, the direct government regulation of religious publications, construction or re-construction plans, and mandated government surveillance clearly illuminates the fact that these religious groups do not have freedom of religion. Furthermore, although China’s Constitution does not mention a registration requirement, the Chapter 2, Article 8 requires the religious group to subject themselves to the government’s authority and laws. If a religious group does not formally register, or fails to acquire formal registration, then that group is banned from carrying out any religious activity. 2008 China Law, 12, LEXUS 6732. Despite the spirit and letter of the law of China’s constitution purports freedom of religion, Shaanxi Province’s law illustrates that China’s Constitution not only does not affect the formation of law, but also fails to protect those who do not comply with the government’s restriction upon religion.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student staff member.  The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.