|China Implements New Religious Freedom Regulations|
New regulations aim for religious freedom
BEIJING (AP) - China is implementing new regulations that the government says will protect freedom of faith. Critics contend that the broad guidelines could instead be used to persecute religious groups deemed troublesome by authorities.
The rules, which take effect today, are meant to give a legal framework for China's constitutional promise of freedom of religion, state media have reported.
China has banned many religious or spiritual groups, including the Falun Gong movement and churches loyal to Pope John Paul II. It also tightly controls Tibetan Buddhism.
The new rules say that "anyone who compels citizens to believe in or not believe in any religions . . . shall be ordered to make corrections by the religious affairs department," the state-run newspaper China Daily said.
"The law purports to protect "normal' religious activities, which in effect means religious activities expressly authorized by the state through a system of compulsory licensing and mandatory inspections," said Nicolas Becquelin, research director of Human Rights in China, an organization based in New York.