New religious regulations take effect in China Thursday, prompting international and local religious leaders to urge Chinese faithful to learn how to legally defend themselves.
Ying Fuk-tsang, director of The Chinese University of Hong Kong’s divinity school, urged Chinese Christians to avail themselves of details about the new regulations and about their legal options should they face unfair treatment from Communist authorities, according to Crux Now. Ying joins a host of international religious leaders and human rights activists who have voiced major concern over the new regulations, which have only been available in draft form to the public since 2014, until now.
Ying told UCANews that the new regulations would impose harsher restrictions on house churches that are part of China’s underground church, officially sanctioned religious groups, and “gray church” groups, which are churches that the government sanctions but has not officially licensed. The degree to which the Chinese government will monitor and otherwise restrict these groups depends, according to Ying, on how mid and low-level communist officials choose to interpret and apply the new regulations. That, Ying said, is why it is important for Christians to arm themselves with knowledge of exactly what the regulations require of them and what legal recourse they have in the event of discrimination.
The regulations also sparked the ire of the international group Human Rights Watch. The group’s China director, Sophie Richardson, berated the Vatican for choosing to acquiesce to a deal over bishops appointments by the Chinese government despite the fact that China is now poised to further oppress the Catholic church via their new regulations.
“Why would the leadership of a major world faith opt to relinquish the power to choose its own spiritual representatives to a government that has long imprisoned and punished those who fought for religious freedom?” Richardson said, according to UCANews.
Richardson argued that should the Vatican ultimately accept the deal to replace bishops appointed by the Holy See with bishops appointed by the Chinese government, the church will be “underestimating six decades of intractable state hostility towards religion.” (RELATED: A Chinese Cardinal Met With The Pope And Came Out Accusing The Vatican Of Selling Out The Chinese Church)
The German ambassador to China, Michael Clauss, also raised concerns over the new regulations in 2017 when he demanded China’s release of Bishop Peter Shao Zumin, whom government officials kidnapped and detained for refusing to join the Communist Party controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
Clauss said the new rules “disturbed” him and claimed that “if unchanged, they could place further restrictions on the right to freedom of religion and belief.”
Richardson echoed Clauss’ sentiment in stronger terms, and urged the Vatican to resist giving into any of the Chinese government’s demands in the face of the new restrictions.
“The Vatican should not take on faith any offers from Beijing until it offers religious freedom to all across China,” Richardson added.
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