Religious rule to limit clergy in Guangzhou
Guangzhou is set to pass a regulation which will significantly limit the freedom of religious practitioners and impose heavy fines on clergymen who refused to register with the authorities.
The regulation, which is modelled on a similar set of rules in Shanghai, will outlaw Taoists who practise fortune-telling and divination, and forbid Christians from engaging in exorcism or healing sessions.
It states that only religious practitioners who have registered with the authorities can run religious venues.
Religious practitioners must apply for approval if they are invited to preach in other cities and out-of-town registered practitioners must also seek permission from the authorities before they can preach in Guangzhou.
The nine-chapter regulation also applies to practitioners from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan if they are to preach in Guangzhou.
Although the regulation states clearly that individuals enjoy the freedom of religion and no government officials can forbid any citizens from practising their faith, it lays down a long list of restrictions and heavy penalties for any violators.
The regulation forbids any practitioners from engaging in religious debates in churches and temples.
Prior approval must be sought for putting up statutes or building churches or temples.
Any religious assemblies must be chaired by personnel who have registered with the authorities.
Foreigners are forbidden to convert Chinese or set up churches in Guangzhou and local practitioners must follow procedures set down by the authorities in accepting foreign donations.
The regulation also states that religious practitioners in Guangzhou cannot accept appointment or ordainment from foreign religious groups, an apparent reference to the Roman Catholic Church.
Foreign missionaries will be forbidden to open schools in Guangzhou or engage in any publishing activities.
Unauthorised personnel, such as pastors or underground Christian churches, will be subjected to fines of up to 50,000 yuan (HK$46,500).