CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 26 May 2018

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Greater rights awareness needed with new religious regulations

HONG KONG (UCAN): China’s new and stricter Regulations for Religious Affair came into force on February 1. Stricter provisions include those covering official registration of places used for religious purposes. 
 
Apart from setting out requirements for sanctioned religious venues, the new framework, covers with areas such as education, as well as property rights and legal liability.
 
Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the divinity school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that people will need to be more aware of their rights and to familiarise themselves with their legal options should they need to challenge unfair treatment.
 
Much would depend on how lower and higher-level officials implement the details of the amended regulations. Ying said.
 
Religious affairs administrators, not least the neighbourhood committees, would have enhanced roles centred on “control more than protection,” he added.
 
Critics maintain that concerns about an eroding of religious freedom have been largely ignored.
 
Paul, who is with the official Church community in northern China, said that some government security officials asked for Church comment on the regulations in early January, however, the response was inadequate response because few people had studied them. 
 
Another person with the official Church Catholic pointed out that people were already used to being under government surveillance and the fact that there was little choice but to follow the dictates of officials.
 
However, a member of the unofficial Church Catholic expressed a willingness to continue to ignore registration requirements even if it meant imprisonment.
 
Another area over which Ying believes authorities want to exercise more control are the so-called grey church communities—which are tacitly sanctioned but have not registered.
 
He explained that in the past, the government had tolerated some house or unofficial Churches and that as long as they had not been specifically targeted, there was a lot of room for them to manoeuvre in governing their own affairs.
 
Ying said that they might not be willing to register and would likely be subject to closer monitoring. 

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