Caesarean Delivery: the Regulations on Religious Affairs in China, March 2005
Taking effect in March 2005, the Regulations on Religious Affairs is an overdue delivery of a more benign policy towards religion in China. Comprehensive in scope, it was promulgated only after numerous drafts and six years of extensive consultation with the religious, academic, legal and human rights communities, followed by a nationwide effort to propagate the new policy at the national and local levels. The Regulations prescribes a new framework for state-religion relations, where the power of the state is limited by reducing government approval and certification requirements for religious communities. Religious organisations are granted increasing autonomy from state ideology, in managing their internal affairs, in owning and using religious property, and in accepting donations from within and outside China. The previous system of administering religious affairs through departmental micro-management and discretionary approval has been partly replaced by rule of law that sets limits on bureaucratic response time to applications from the religious communities, which are now empowered to lodge administrative appeals, challenge administrative decisions in courts, and sue for compensatory damages from illegal or negligent government action. While the state still manages and intervenes in religious affairs, the enactment of such legislation is a benign and overdue change in religious policy in the reform period in China.
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