Editor's Note: The Legislative Affairs Office announced Revised Draft of Regulations on Religious Affairs (Draft) on Sept 7．The Draft has aroused extensive concerns and discussion among religious people. The following are some modification suggestions on the Draft from Priest Wu Bing.
Suggestion proposed according to following principles:
1. Under the rule of law and clarity; clear boundary of power and rights
2. To consider national security and healthy development of religions.
3. To protect citizens' legitimate rights and interests and unite religious believers.
4. To make the rules more maneuverable.
I majored law at university and now serve as a legal priest in a Christianity church. I don't represent the so-called official religion or pursue Western freedom of religion. I just want to offer some suggestions on the rule of law, thus promoting the stability of nation and health of religion.
Chapter one: General Rules
Article four says the State protects normal religious activities and defends legitimate rights and interests of religious groups, religious academies, religious activity places and religious citizens.
Proposed version: The State protects legitimate religious activities, defending legitimate rights and interests of religious groups, religious academies, religious activity places and religious citizens.
"No organization or individual is allowed to make conflicts or contradictions between religious citizens and secular citizens, within the same religion or among different religions. No organization or individual is allowed to preach religious extremism. No organization or individual is allowed to undermine national unity, divide the country or carry out terrorist activities under the name of religion."
According to this clause, a quarrel of a religious couple can cause contradictions and conflicts. Isn't that funny? According to the opinions of Dialectical Materialism, contradictions exist everywhere. We have to face and solve the contradictions. Contradiction is a word of philosophy and not suitable for law regulations. The word does not conform to the spirit of the rule of law.
The suggested version is "No organization or individual is allowed to make public disturbance or destruct social harmony between religious citizens and secular citizens, among different religions and within the same religion."
Chapter two: Religious Groups
Article nine says except religious groups at the level of nation, province, autonomous region and municipality, no other organizations or individuals can send or receive overseas students for religious study.
How to define "religious study"? What if it's just academic exchange? For example, a university students studies Theology, Buddhism or religion abroad but he doesn't believe any religion. I'm afraid he is not doing religious study.
The proposed version is " Except religious groups at the level of nation, province, autonomous region and municipality, no other organizations or individuals can send or receive overseas students for cultivating church officers."
Article ten says religious colleges, religious activity places and religious staff shall observe the rules set by religious groups.
Does it mean a Buddhist must observe Christianity rules? Or a Catholic must follow rules of Islam? I suggest adding "their own" before "religious groups".
The proposed version: Religious colleges, religious activity places and religious staff shall observe the rules set by their own religious groups.
Chapter three: Religious Institutions
Article eleven says except religious groups at the level of nation, province, autonomous region and municipality, no other organizations or individuals can set up religious institutions.
I suggest adding such a clause: The religious institutions referred to in this article are aimed at cultivating church officers. Religious citizens can apply for them.
Article sixteen says a religious institution apply the system of teachers' qualification, title appraisal and students degree awarding. The specific measures shall be formulated by the Religious Affairs Department of the State Council.
I suggest adding such a clause: If the academy level of a religious institution equals to that of a national junior college, graduates from the religious institution can be given a equivalent degree under the approval of Religious Affairs Department and Education Department of the State Council.
Chapter four: Religious Activity Places
Article 26 says the internal management shall be strengthened in religious activity places. In accordance with the provisions of relevant laws and regulations, management systems of personnel, finance, assets, accounting, public security, fire protection, the protection of cultural relics, health and epidemic prevention shall be established and improved. Religious activity places shall also accept the guidance, supervision and inspection of relevant departments.
I suggest adding a system of foreign affairs.
Article 35 says religious citizens who are in need of regular religious group activities while not qualified to apply for the establishment of religious activity places shall submit application to the religious affairs department of the county's government. After the approval of local religious groups and the street agency, the applied place can be used as the temporary venue.
Under the guidance of the religious affairs department of the people's government at the county level, the local people's government at the level of town or the street agency supervises the activities of the temporary venue. The approval and registration procedures of setting up the religious activity place shall be completed.
I'm afraid the words of this article are vague and may cause a lot of troubles in application. My proposed version is:
For religious citizens who are in need of frequent religious group activities while not qualified to apply for the establishment of religious activity places, if the number of them is less than 30 and they don't accept religious donations, they shall be filed with religious affairs department of local government at the county level (or local government at the level of county and the street agency); if the number of them is more than 30 and they accept religious donations, they can apply to the religious affairs department of local government at the county level for setting up a temporary activity place. After asking suggestions from relevant religious groups and religious affairs departments of the local government at the town level or street agencies, the religious affairs department of local people's government at the county level can appoint temporary activity places for them.
Under the guidance of the religious affairs department of the people's government at the county level, the local people's government at the level of town or the street agency supervises he activities of the temporary venue. The approval and registration procedures of setting up the religious activity place shall be completed.
Chapter Six Religious Activities
Article 40 says that the religious group activities of religious citizens shall generally be held in the religious activity place and organized by religious groups or institutions. Religious group activities shall be presided over by qualified church workers or other people in accordance with the provisions of the religion. The activity shall be carried out in accordance with the Canon.
The biggest problem of this article is the vague definition of "religious group activities." Do Christian family gatherings or chanting of Buddhists calculate as religious group activities? I suggest a strict definition of it.
Adding a clause:
The definition of religious group activities is as follows:
1.More than 30 participants;
2. Regular religious activities;
3. Accepting religious contributions;
4. A corresponding management organization;
5. People regular organizing religious activities
Article 44 says neither religious activities nor religious organizations are allowed in national education schools.
Suggestion: This article is to ensure the separation of religion system and education system and prevent the religion permeation on campus. However, this article can infringe the education workers and students' legal freedom of religious belief. Some people with ulterior motives will use it to attack our religious policies. I suggested changing the article into the following one according to the concept of rule by law and principle of international law:
The nation protects education workers' and students' freedom of religious belief. However, no organization or individual shall public their religious beliefs, hold religious activities, establish religious organizations or set religious sites in national education colleges and universities. No religious education workers and students shall serve as religious officers or preside over religious activities.
Minors under the age of eighteen shall not participate in religious activities or receive religious education unless their guardians agreed. No organization or individual shall deprive the minors' rights and obligations of national education in the name of religion.
In this way the article becomes more operational and is in accordance with the constitution, laws and national conditions.
Article 47 says Internet religious information services shall be carried out with the approval of religious affairs department of the government at or above the provincial level and in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations of Internet information service management.
Suggestion: This article seems ambiguous and difficult to implement. I suggested cancelling the article because it may cause some problems easily. I also suggest adding this to the content of Article 48:
If the Internet religion information service is reported and confirmed to contain prohibited contents of the regulation, the religious affairs department of government at or above the county level shall issue a warning and order to correct the illegal behavior. The service shall be banned if the illegal behavior continues.
Chapter 7 Religious Property
Article 53 says any organization or individual donating to building religious activity places shall not enjoy the ownership or right of using the religious activity place. They shall not get economic benefits from the place, either.
Neither contractual management nor investment in religious activity places or large religious statues is allowed. Commercial publicity in the name of religion is prohibited.
Totally agreed! A big praise! But the definition of economic benefits is vague and ambiguous. Do salaries of religious faculty calculate as economic benefits? The suggested version is "They shall not obtain business earnings from religious activity places ".
Chapter 8 Legal Responsibility
Article 62 says that any behavior enforcing citizens to believe religions or not and any interference with religious group activities in religious institutions and religious activity places shall be warned and corrected by the religious affairs departments. Acts violating the administration of public security will be punished in respect to management of public security by public security organizations in accordance with the law.
I suggest adding such a clause: If citizens are discriminated for believing any religion or not in employing units, social activities, cultural propaganda and so on, they can lodge a complaint to the religious affairs department. Once the discrimination is confirmed, religious affairs department shall investigate the responsibilities of relevant organizations or individuals.
I suggest cancelling all the penalty clauses except Article 71. Religion issue is people's internal problems and all fines are from the dedication of religious citizens. They may be deluded or have no idea of the relevant laws and regulations. Too much penalty may make people with ulterior motives incite religious hatred and bring about social disturbance. The economic level of each place and the situation of each church are different. General Secretary Xi Jinping said the priority of religious laws and regulations is to guide religious citizens. He also said that emphasizing prohibitive decisions will easily hurt religious citizens' feelings, thus failing to unit them to the utmost.
(The author is a Pastor at a Christian church of Dalian.)