Religious Freedom in China

Religious Freedom Week 2022: June 26

Pray for the freedom of the Church in China, and that the rights of all religious minorities would be respected.


While the Chinese constitution grants its citizens “freedom of religious belief,” in reality that freedom is conditioned by what the government deems to be permissible. In remarks in December 2021, President Xi re-emphasized the need for “sinicization” of religion, “upholding the principle of developing religions in the Chinese context and providing active guidance for the adaptation of religions to socialist society.” The case of Uyghur Muslims in China has been much publicized and with good reason. It is estimated that over 1 million Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region of China have been detained in what the Chinese call “re-education” camps but are basically prison camps. Human rights groups have found credible evidence of Uyghurs being tortured, placed in solitary confinement, and subjected to forced labor. For those not in the camps, the CCP uses extensive electronic surveillance (facial recognition, voice pattern sampling) and armed checkpoints to limit the movement of Uyghurs.

But the growing restrictions apply to all religions. Christian institutions and clergy/religious have been come under increased pressure to register with state-sanctioned religious bodies. For Catholics, this would be the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA). There are an estimated 12 million Catholics in China, with half being part of CCPA registered congregations led by bishops selected with the approval of the Chinese Communist Party, the rest being members of the “underground” church who adhere to the authority of Rome. In September 2018, the Vatican and China signed a provisional agreement concerning the appointment of bishops with the CCPA recommending candidates for bishops and the Pope having the final say. While the text of this agreement has not been made public, it was intended to pave the way for the unification of the underground and CCPA sanctioned Catholic communities. It remains to be seen whether the Vatican’s hope of building trust and friendship through dialogue will bear fruit in improvements in religious freedom, not only for Catholics, but for all who want to exercise their “right to live in the truth of one’s faith and in conformity with one’s transcendent dignity as a person.” 


Solidarity with people of faith in other countries begins with learning about their struggles.  Stay informed by signing up for the USCCB’s religious liberty newsletter, First Freedom News.


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