Sun Huailliang

Laws on Religion in China since 1990: a Constitution-centered. Analysis

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Art. 36 of China's Constitution; Document no. 19 of 1982; Freedom of Religious Belief; State Supremacy over Church; Religious Autonomy.

The enlightened religious policy in China was generally thought to start in the beginning of 1980s with "Document No. 19" that was issued in March of 1982 by the Central Committee of Communist Party of China. Its principles and defects were inevitably absorbed into the Article 36 of the new constitution that was issued in December of 1982: lack of religious autonomy. It is under this background that one could have a pertinent understanding about the term of «Freedom of Religious Belief» in Art. 36. Indeed, it is possible for this peculiar phrase to be interpreted as the protection for religious belief in ones' mind alone, instead of religious activity. This has unfortunately come true during the last twenty years. The laws and policies on religion began to depart from the enlightened discourse of 1980s. Connected closely with this trend are the phenomena that Art. 36 as a whole is understood more as constraining than as protecting religious freedom; that the separation of the Church and State are interpreted incorrectly as the marginalizing of religious activity in public life; and that equal eligibility for religious and non-religious believers to public offices cannot be realized. Because of this, Art. 36 has long since been viewed as the constitutional clause to prohibit church schools, and the right of the Roman Pontiff to elect and appoint Chinese bishops viewed as an intervention to China's domestic affairs. In brief, the constitutional ideology of Sovietism has still remained in China in some sense; an ideal relation between State and Church is not concluded yet, but belongs to the future.

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