Interpreting China's conference on religious work

Some believe the meeting's purpose was to enshrine officially into law tighter controls over religion

By ucanews.com in Hong Kong

Chinese Christians were confused about how to interpret the results of the National Conference of Religious Work, held behind closed doors in Beijing in late April.

All but one of China's elite Politburo Standing Committee, including President Xi Jinping and his Prime Minister Li Keqiang, attended the two-day summit on April 22-23. Xi laid out his blueprint on religious management in the highest-level meeting on religious work by the party since 2001.

The People’s Daily, the party’s mouthpiece, dedicated three quarters of its April 24 front page to the meeting.

Chinese commentator Gu Ziming said that conference means that religion is a big problem in China.

When Xi stressed the religious officials "must insist the party’s basic direction on religious work," the word "must" means he is criticizing them for not do so, said Gu on his Wechat public account.

"I don’t bother to read the news. We would never stand in the same line but just cope with the government perfunctorily," said an open church priest in Taiyuan who asked not to be named. Taiyuan, a diocese in central Shanxi province, has a Catholic population of about 80,000.

"If we support the government's line wholeheartedly, it means our faith is problematic," he said, referring to the irreconcilable difference between Catholicism and the atheist Communist regime.

"It is the old tune, control will only be stricter. The government will interfere with religious affairs in the name of "the rule of law," so what kind of freedom of religious belief is left for us?" an underground bishop, who asked not to be named told ucanews.com.

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