The Chinese Communist Party is officially atheist, but China's constitution explicitly allows "freedom of religious belief." No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The government offers protection to religious activities but this protection is extended only to what is called "normal religious activities," generally understood to refer to religions that submit to state control via the State Administration for Religious Affairs. (www.wikipedia.org)
The Party has by and large exhibited a cautious tolerance towards religion but it prohibits its nearly 90 million Party members from holding religious beliefs.The Party has often demanded the expulsion of members who belong to religious organisations.
The law affords protection to five officially sanctioned religions: the Buddhist Association of China , Chinese Taoist Association , Islamic Association of China , Three-Self patriotic Movement and Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. Religious groups are required to register with the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) or its provincial and local offices known as Religious Affairs Bureaus (RABs). SARA and the RABs are responsible for monitoring and judging the legitimacy of religious activity.(www.wikipedia.org)
Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs said that party members are forbidden from supporting or getting involved in religious affairs in the name of developing the economy or diversifying culture.
"Party members should be firm Marxist atheists, obey Party rules and stick to the Party's faith ... they are not allowed to seek value and belief in religion," Wang said.(www.timesofindia.com)
"Some people who claim to be scholars support religious beliefs in the Party, which has undermined the Party's values based on dialectical materialism," said Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the ethnic and religious committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. (www.timesofindia.com)
Wang said "foreign forces" are using religion "to infiltrate China" which is a threat to the country's security.
Chinese media quoted an official, explaining the new regulations, as saying: "There are clear rules that retired cadres and party members cannot believe in religion, cannot take part in religious activities, and must resolutely fight against cults."(www.timesofindia.com)
New rule regarding the ban on religion for the members of Communist party of China came up in 2016 which barred even the retired officials from following any religion. Retired officials should "maintain a high degree of consistency, in thought, in political views and in action, with the central party committee which is headed by Xi Jinping", the official had added last year. (www.bbc.com)
China has long been considered one of the worst countries for religious liberty. The report from the Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) found an "alarming increase in systematic, egregious, and ongoing abuses" in 2014.
According to the report , the Chinese government has been taking steps to consolidate further its authoritarian monopoly of over all aspects of its citizens lives. People of faith have continued to face arrests, fines, denials of justice, lengthy prison sentences, and in some cases, the closing or bulldozing of places of worship. (www.christiantoday.com)
Though freedom of religion is guaranteed under the Chinese Constitution, it is restricted to those who belong to state-sanctioned "patriotic religious associations".
The government closely regulates and monitors religious activities among various groups, and undercover officials are known to sit in on meetings. Surveillance cameras adorn the walls of many sanctioned churches, keeping a watchful eye on worshippers.
China is home to an estimated 12 million Catholics, the majority of whom worship outside the official Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association(CPA).
Some Catholics who recognize the authority of the Holy See choose to worship secretly due to the risk of harassment from authorities. Several underground Catholic bishops have been reported disappeared or imprisoned, and harassment of unregistered bishops and priests is common.There are reports of Catholic bishops and priests being forced by authorities to attend the ordination ceremonies for bishops who had not gained Vatican approval.Chinese authorities also have reportedly pressured Catholics to break communion with the Vatican by requiring them to renounce an essential belief in Roman Catholicism.
Authorities are also known to impose rigid controls over religious expression, particularly over Uyghur muslims. Authorities monitor mosques, restrict the observation of Ramadan by government officials and students, and enact campaigns to prevent Uyghur men from wearing beards. Uyghur Muslims worshiping independently have been detained and charged with conducting "illegal religious activities". (www.wikipedia.org)
Falun Gong was a Chinese spiritual practice that combined meditation and 'qigong' exercises with a moral philosophy centered on the tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance had to go through. The practice emphasizes morality and the cultivation of virtue. In 1999, the Communist Party leadership initiated a nationwide crackdown and multifaceted propaganda campaign intended to eradicate the practice, a program of enforced ideological conversion and re-education, and a variety of extralegal coercive measures such as arbitrary arrests, forced labor, and physical torture, which sometimes even resulted in death. (www.wikipedia.org)