INSTEAD of being outlawed by new regulations on religious venues, Chinese church leaders argue that a great majority of house churches will gain legal recognition and protection. But resistance is anticipated particularly from lower level cadres, and conflicts are expected in the process of implementation. ''There were reasons to fear that the process of implementation would not be without conflicts,'' Dr Konrad Raiser, general-secretary of the World Council of Churches, yesterday quoted church leaders in China as saying after a visit to China from May 5 to 11. Official figures show that there are about seven million Christians in China, with a widely quoted 8,000 registered Protestant churches or 20,000 meeting places. But a larger number of believers stay outside the official Three Self Patriotic Church of China and prefer house churches. House churches are estimated to have about 70 million members, and are branded underground by the Chinese Government. Violations against religious liberty by the state reportedly occur in these venues. ''There is no prediction on what impact these decrees will have,'' Dr Raiser said. But Chinese church leaders consider these rules progressive, he said, because local cadres who were largely without any control could now be held accountable. According to the new rules, the house churches now have to supply clear addresses, defined membership and clear financial conditions in order to register. Chinese church leaders expect a large number of the now unregistered meeting points to seek registration and public recognition for legal protection, Dr Raiser said.