China’s head of religious affairs has warned that the country’s religious groups must not be “dominated” by “foreign forces”, reports Reuters.
“There is no affiliate relationship between our country’s religions and foreign religions. Our country’s religious groups and religious matters do not accept domination by foreign forces,” the religious affairs bureau chief, Wang Zuoan, wrote this week in the bi-monthly Communist Party journal Qiushi, or “Seeking Truth”.
The statement comes as talks take place between the Vatican and Beijing over the appointment of bishops. Pope Francis wants the Vatican to reach a deal with the state-backed Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which oversees the registered Church, but some church leaders have warned that the Vatican is at risk of “selling out the Catholic Church in China”.
Wang also highlighted the importance of the “Sinicisation” of religions, and that “the religious world must support the leadership of the CCP [China’s Communist Party]”, according to Catholic news site UCAN.
Zuoan’s comments echo the sentiments of President Xi Jinping, who has said “religions in China must be Chinese in orientation” and independent from outside influence.
Catholic dioceses in China have been told by state-approved bishops to come up with a five-year plan by the end of this month, outlining how they will “Sinicize” the Church, adapt more to Chinese culture and show “loyalty” to the Communist Party.
In his article this week, Wang wrote that the Church must “uphold the party’s leadership, consolidate its ruling status, adhere to the separation of politics and religion … and adhere to the government’s management of religious affairs involving the public interest of the state and society”.
He added that Church and state should be separate in the areas of administration, justice and education.
Wang also said that the new regulations on religious affairs, which came into force on 1 February, will be translated into laws and ordinances over time. They include guidelines on religious education, the types of religious organisations that can exist, where they can exist and the activities they can organise.
Where the regulations are enforced, churches have experienced surveillance, fines, intimidation and pressure to close.
Last month, 34 churches in Beijing issued a joint declaration in which they called on the government to respect the freedom and rights of religious citizens.