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Release of new religious regulations expected soon

HONG KONG (UCAN): Wang Zuo’an, the director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, has disclosed that the newly amended regulations on religion will be released in the near future and part of the deal is that the his office plans to pay great attention to their enforcement.

The national meeting for religious directors across China was held in Beijing from January 9 to 10, during which the Wang delivered his remarks while setting out his plan for the year ahead.

The Wenweipo, a pro-Beijing newspaper published in Hong Kong, reported Wang as saying that the newly amended Regulations on Religious Affairs would be released after receiving approval from the meeting of the State Council executive, which will be held on a date yet made public.

“The amendment focussed on resolving issues related to national security and has strong requirements from the religious sector,” Wang explained.

The amendment, which completed a one-month public consultation on October 7, is part of a strategy of the president, Xi Jinping, on religious management, which he laid out during the National Conference of Religious Work in April last year.

Observers believe that the amendment is to reinforce Communist Party control over religions, minorities and any potential source of social disruption.

At the Religious Affairs meeting, Wang also emphasised the work of his bureau in 2017 would be aimed at implementing the spirit of the National Conference of Religious Work, strengthening the rule of law and insisting on Sinicisation, or making foreign religions more Chinese.

Wang said that religious work must be involved with politics, be politically clearheaded, strict in discipline and dare to be responsible.

In its plan for last year, the bureau stated that China would continue electing and ordaining bishops for the Catholic Church in China on its own authority, without any reference to the Vatican.

In the last quarter of 2016, four bishops were ordained in Shaanxi, Shanxi and Sichuan provinces. However, all had approval from both the Vatican and the Chinese government.

The Ninth National Congress of Catholic Representatives also went ahead as planned. The meeting from December 27 to 29 elected new office holders in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China.

However, there does not appear to have been much progress on the plan to register all Catholic priests in the country. It appears that identity cards for religious clerics have been around for years, but no one ever took them seriously.

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