China’s 2021 Measures on the Management of Religious Clergy

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On February 9, 2021, the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA)—a
government entity under the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work
Department—issued the Measures on the Management of Religious Clergy (the
Measures). The Measures, which became effective on May 1, 2021, are a part of a series
of newly issued regulations that supplement the revised 2018 Regulations on Religious
Affairs (RRA). The Measures subject clergy of the five state-sanctioned religious
groups in China—the Buddhist Association of China, the Chinese Taoist Association,
the Islamic Association of China, the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement,
and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association—to even tighter state control and
surveillance. They also impose penalties for clergy who violate a complex web of state
rules and policies aimed at curtailing religious freedom. Moreover, the Measures
effectively ban religious activity by independent religious clergy who are not part of
the five state-sanctioned religious groups. This factsheet provides an overview of the
new Measures and their adverse impact on religious freedom in China.

The New Measures on Clergy
The new Measures expand an invasive and comprehensive system of control and
surveillance on clergy. Article 3 of the Measures requires clergy—among other
demands—to support the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rule, the Chinese
socialist political system, and the CCP’s “sinicization of religion” policy, effectively
imposing a political test to ensure clergies’ loyalty to the CCP. Articles 6 and 12
specifically prohibit clergy from engaging in “illegal religious activities,” “religious
extremism,” and “foreign infiltration using religion.” These vague provisions could
be used as a broad pretext to crack down on independent religious groups, ethnoreligious minority groups, and religious groups with perceived foreign connections.

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