New Measures for Governing Religions in Xi’s China

By: J.Y.-W. Chen, M.Lavička

DOI: 10.1177/00094455231187046


With the incorporation of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) into the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) United Front Work Department in 2018, religious affairs have been brought back into the direct control of the Party. While SARA has retained its name, it is no longer an independent state agency. Five further legal measures were introduced from 2019 to 2021. This review essay examines these legal changes in order to update the dominant understanding of Xi Jinping’s attempt to reshape religious order in the hands of the CCP. The specific creation of regulations on Islamic affairs and the Internet also responds to Xi’s perceived problems regarding religious affairs in the contemporary era. Under the new measures, the state has demanded clear administration of religious groups, creating functions and positions like those in the Party’s branches. Beijing has further increased its control over religious personnel by establishing files on each of them, including details of any misconduct, in order to assess their trustworthiness. This essay concludes that the CCP continues to work toward the final eradication of religions in a Marxist manner and that China’s practices differ from existing international legal norms to which, at least nominally, China adheres as a signatory.

Dr Martin Lavička was a guest scholar at RWI in Lund between March 6 and April 3, 2022. Martin Lavička is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Asian Studies, Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic. His research focuses on the socio-legal aspects of China’s ethnic policies, religious freedoms, and the rule of law. During his stay in Lund he focused on analysing recent normative documents from the State Administration for Religious Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, which resulted in the co-authored article with Professor Julie Yu-Wen Chen from Helsinki University.

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