Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Beijing Municipality Amends Local Religious Regulation

China Aid Association

Beijing Municipality Amends Local Religious Regulation
The Beijing Municipal People's Congress Standing Committee issued
amendments on July 28 to its 2002 Beijing Municipal Regulation on Religious Affairs (Beijing RRA), making it the sixth provincial-level area to issue a new or amended regulation on religion since the national Regulation on Religious Affairs (national RRA) entered into force in March 2005. Anhui province amended its regulation in June, and Shanghai municipality and Zhejiang province amended their regulations in April 2005 and March 2006, respectively. Henan and Shanxi provinces issued new regulations in July 2005.

The Beijing municipal government amended its regulation to alter only provisions that conflicted with or differed from the national RRA, according to an explanation of the draft amendments (Draft Amendments Explanation) posted May 25 on the Beijing Municipal People's Congress Standing Committee Web site.

The government amended eight articles in total, including the following:

Article 14 previously provided that registered clergy could "lead religious activities within venues for religious activities." The amended provision tracks language in the national RRA, stipulating only that registered clergy can "carry out religious affairs activities." The elimination of the requirement that such activities be held in registered venues does not, however, necessarily signify a loosening of controls. The amended Beijing RRA retains limits on the movement of clergy (Article 16), and both the national and Beijing RRA place general limits on carrying out religious activities (see, e.g., Articles 12 and 22, respectively).

The amendment to Article 20 eliminates the requirement that religious venues be subject to a fixed yearly inspection by the district or county religious affairs bureaus (RAB). The amendment instead makes venues subject to "guidance, supervision, and inspection" by both district or county RABs and "other relevant departments," on a non-fixed basis. Articles 18 and 19 of the national RRA contain similar provisions.

Article 26 previously required that the city-level religious association consent to, and the relevant city, district, or county RAB approve, all large-scale religious activities. The amendment to this article goes into more detail, tracking in part language within the national RRA. It makes a large-scale religious activity that involves more than one provincial-level area, as well as large-scale activities held outside registered venues, subject to provisions within the national RRA. Article 22 of the national RRA requires that religious organizations or venues apply to the provincial-level RAB to hold such activities. In addition, amended Article 26 of the Beijing RRA makes permission to hold all other large-scale religious activities subject to consent by the city-level religious association. In addition, the event must be reported beforehand to the district or country RAB. Article 22 of the national RRA specifies that large-scale religious activities be held in accordance with a "notice of approval," but does not specify who grants such approval.

Amendments to Articles 47 and 48 reorganize provisions on liability, reducing the number of violations that could be subject to a fine specified within the regulation. Most violations now are subject to various penalties including public security administration punishments. The Public Security Administration Punishment Law (PSAPL) provides for administrative punishments that include limited short-term administrative detention as well as fines. Not all of the provisions singled out for penalties within the Beijing RRA are singled out for penalties within the national RRA, but the national RRA contains a number of broad punitive provisions that could encompass a range of violations. Penalties within the national RRA include public security administration punishments.

The Beijing changes are more detailed than those made recently in Anhui province, but are not as extensive as amendments made in Shanghai and Zhejiang. The Anhui government made two amendments to its provincial RRA and retained provisions that conflicted with or differed from the national RRA. The Beijing government's stated goal of bringing its regulation into conformity with the national RRA, coupled with its detailed explanation of each amendment in its Draft Amendments Explanation, reflects a degree of transparency and organization lacking in amendment processes such as the one in Anhui. At the same time, some of the Beijing amendments reflect continued uncertainties in China's religious regulatory system. The amendment to Article 20, for example, was based in part on the determination that requirements within the Measures for the Yearly Inspection of Venues for Religious Activities (Measures) are no longer applicable due to subsequent legislative developments, yet some local governments and local religious regulations continue to abide by the Measures and require yearly inspections. (See, for example, an announcement posted May 15, 2006, on the Yandu City government Web site and Article 15 of the Guangdong Province Regulation on the Administration of Religious Affairs. See also the Draft Amendments Explanation for more information on Article 20.)

For more information on religion in China, see section V(d), Freedom of Religion, in the CECC 2006 Annual Report.

Link directly to this item with: http://www.cecc.gov/pages/virtualAcad/index.phpd?showsingle=73832

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