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HRWF 2016 Annual Report

Excerpt: 

“Religion (宗教 zōngjiào) in China tends to be syncretic and non-theistic, where following one religion does not require the rejection or denial of others. Traditional Chinese culture has been marked by a worldview that all things are part of the whole, an essential oneness that permeates the universe and unites the many into one. Some philosophical and belief systems in China, such as Confucianism, defy typically Western notions of what actually constitutes a ‘religion.’

Hundreds of millions of people practice some form of Chinese folk religion and Taoism. There have been several attempts to estimate the number of Taoists. These attempts often resulted in only small percentages of the population willing to consciously identify themselves Taoist, since there is no difference between Taoism and Chinese folk religion in the minds of most Chinese people.

Statistics for religious believers differ widely for a number of reasons. According to the 2014 Index Mundi survey, Buddhists represent 18.2%, Christians 5.1%, and Muslims 1.8% of the Chinese population. The majority Han Chinese maintain many local religious practices. There are also numerous ethnic minority groups in China who follow their traditional autochthone religions. Various sects of indigenous origin are represented by 2-3% of the population. Identifying oneself with Confucianism is popular among intellectuals. There are also significant faiths that are specifically connected to certain ethnic groups, such as Tibetan Buddhism and the Islamic religion of the Hui and Uyghur peoples…

The activities of religious communities are regulated by various state agencies, especially the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) and the United Front Work Department (UFWD), which is directly under the authority of the Communist Central Committee. Both institutions have offices in the Autonomous Regions as well as at the provincial and municipal level. These agencies are responsible for monitoring and judging the legitimacy of religious activities within their area. Even still, the SARA and the UFWD provide so-called policy ‘guidance and supervision’ on the implementation of government regulations regarding religious activities, including those of foreigners.

Another role of these state control agencies is to leverage the national religious leadership bodies to serve as advocates for the Chinese government’s religious policy and domestic and foreign political agendas.”

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