The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one's belief or religion
The right to join together and express one's belief

28 September 2004
In Xinjiang region, Forum 18 News Service has seen an instructional display
outlining banned activities. Such instructional displays are normally
hidden from the public, and are thought to apply in mosques throughout
China. Among banned activities are: teaching religion "privately"; allowing
children under 18 to attend a mosque; allowing Islam to influence family
life and birth planning behaviour; propaganda associated with terrorism and
separatism; religious professionals acquiring large sums of money; the
declaration of "holy war" (jihad); and promoting "superstitious thoughts".
These displays are not compulsory in non-Muslim places of worship and Forum
18 found no such displays in Xinjiang's two Orthodox churches. Also, the
mosque's "democratic management committee" must conduct regular sessions
propounding legal regulations and party policies. Such party-appointed
committees oversee activities in places of worship and are also known to
exist in Tibetan Buddhist temples.

29 September 2004
The Chinese police, or Public Security Bureau, is responsible for
persecuting religious communities, arresting and detaining in the first
half of 2004 hundreds of religious believers. It is also responsible for
such normal police activities as apprehending drug traffickers and other
criminals, directing traffic and patrolling the streets. But despite its
very prominent role in state control of religious affairs, little is
understood outside China about the massive monitoring and control system
maintained by the Public Security Bureau, its very significant impact on
religious affairs in China, and the nature of the discussions on religion
and "cults" by members of the public security system. Forum 18 News Service
here explains the system and its importance, as well as outlining ongoing
discussions of reform amongst Chinese officials and scholars. But despite
these discussions, the public security system is highly likely to remain an
instrument of state repression.
* See full article below. *

27 September 2004
Masis Mailyan, deputy foreign minister of the unrecognised enclave of
Nagorno-Karabakh, has insisted to Forum 18 News Service that, despite the
latest police raid on a Baptist congregation, the enclave follows the
commitments contained in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, telling Forum 18 that "there are no restrictions on believers and
all confessions are equal." However he contradicted himself by stating,
contrary to Article 18, that, under the martial law that has operated since
1992, only registered organisations can exist and that Baptists "cannot
hold services." Mailyan denied that only the Armenian Apostolic Church is
allowed to function, but admitted that it is the only registered religious
community. Other local Protestants have told Forum 18 that pressure on
their work has eased in recent years and their congregations can function
quietly, so it is unclear why the Baptists have been singled out for the
authorities' continuing hostility.

27 September 2004
Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, has two Protestant and one Catholic
church, which are suspected of being "show churches" for display to
foreigners, so it remains unclear whether any North Koreans will be able to
or will dare to regularly attend an Orthodox church under construction. The
building is funded by the North Korean state, and Forum 18 News Service has
learnt that it is "65 per cent finished". By the early 1900's, about 10,000
Koreans had converted to Orthodoxy due to Russian missionaries in the now
divided Korean peninsula. Dmitry Petrovsky, of the Moscow Patriarchate's
Department for External Church Relations, expressed the hope to Forum 18
that links with this past missionary activity remain, as is the case with
Orthodox churches in South Korea. Four North Koreans are studying at the
Moscow Theological Seminary, and Petrovsky remarked to Forum 18 that they
are displaying "zeal and a genuine interest in Orthodoxy".

30 September 2004
In the latest of several attacks on Protestants, Police and National
Security Service (NSS) secret police have raided a prayer meeting of the
Greater Grace church in Samarkand [Samarqand]. An official claimed to Forum
18 News Service that religious meetings in private homes are illegal. All
unregistered religious activity is banned, and those involved face heavy
penalties. Begzot Kadyrov, an official of the government's religious
affairs committee, denied to Forum 18 that this violates the right to meet
freely for worship with fellow believers, as guaranteed under international
human rights agreements that Uzbekistan has signed. Several police officers
in the raid identified themselves as Muslims, and told the Christians that
there is "no need" for any Christians or members of other faiths in
Uzbekistan. A Hungarian present, Jozsef Marian, who is married to an Uzbek,
was pressured to write a statement, and threats were made that he would be
forced to leave Samarkand. 2004 has seen an increase in raids and fines on
those involved in unregistered religious activity, especially on

29 September 2004
By Magda Hornemann, Forum 18 News Service

Among the most shocking television images in recent years are those of
Chinese police - more commonly known as "public security officers" -
beating Falun Gong protestors in Beijing's Tiananmen Square before dragging
them into waiting vans to be taken to detention centres. Several years
after the height of the state repression of the Falun Gong movement and its
practitioners, religious believers in China continue to suffer at the hands
of public security officers.

In the first half of 2004 alone, hundreds of believers have been arrested
and detained. In recent incidents, more than 100 house church leaders were
arrested by public security officers and military police on 6 August in
Tongxu County, Kaifeng City, Henan Province. The same day, police arrested
eight Roman Catholic priests and seminarians in Quyang County, Shijiazhuang
Village, Hebei Province.

Meanwhile, public security agents throughout China maintain active
surveillance over Falun Gong practitioners, punctuated by periodic
crackdowns. According to the Falun Gong, over 100,000 practitioners have
been sent to reeducation-through-labour (laojiao) camps operated by the
public security system. In Xinjiang and Tibet, public security officers
work against individual believers and organisations in the name of
countering "terrorism", "splittism" and "extremism".

Despite the public security system's prominent role in the state's
"management" of religious affairs, little is understood outside China about
this massive system of state control, its significant impact on how
religious affairs in China are managed, and the nature of the discussions
on religion and "cults" by members of this community.

As its name implies, the public security system - the police - is directly
responsible for maintaining public order and internal security. Public
security officers are involved in apprehending drug traffickers, corrupt
officials and petty criminals. They also guard government and commercial
office buildings, direct traffic and patrol the streets.

Yet these visible functions only scratch the surface of the public security
system's immense powers and jurisdictional responsibilities. In effect, the
men and women of the public security system are the Communist regime's eyes
and ears to ensure the state's control over all aspects of China's
political life, society and economy. Public security agencies hold
extraordinarily detailed information about their objects of interest. For
example, they maintain data on the size of each "cultic" group and its
membership, the extent of its geographical influence and its foreign

Public security agents oversee internal as well as external security. To
maintain external security, public security agents oversee the foreign
travel of Chinese citizens and foreigners' entry into the country. The
People's Armed Police - made up of former People's Liberation Army officers
and soldiers and managed jointly by the Ministry of Public Security and the
Central Military Commission - maintain border security. Public security
agents also have counter-intelligence responsibilities.

Internally, in addition to preventing and cracking down on major and petty
crimes, public security officers provide protection for senior Communist
and government officials. They also manage the household registration
system (hukou), which maintains an individual file on every citizen.
Moreover, they regularly police the Internet for undesirable materials. The
public security system also operates the appeals office (xingfang), which
is where citizens can file grievances against state officials. Furthermore,
the public security bureaucracy operates the notorious
reeducation-through-labour system that imprisons many dissidents, including
religious believers, without due process.

The public security system is a massive bureaucracy that extends from the
Ministry of Public Security - led by a member of the powerful Communist
Party Politburo - in the central government in Beijing down to police
stations in the townships and villages of the hinterland. Like other
government agencies, a public security organ functions at each level of

At the level of province or "autonomous region" - such as Tibet and
Xinjiang - the public security department oversees the entire province,
most of which have populations numbering in the tens of millions. Henan,
for example, home to most of China's underground Protestant house churches,
has over 90 million people, making it the country's most populated
province. According to the 2000 "Chinese Public Security Encyclopaedia",
among the chief responsibilities of these provincial public security
departments are researching and analysing social conditions in their
provinces or regions; drawing up policies and countermeasures to maintain
public security; and guiding and coordinating sub-provincial public
security authorities.

Each provincial public security department contains numerous offices, each
of which has clearly delineated responsibilities. These range from
directing traffic and firefighting to maintaining political and economic
security. In some cases, religion offices are established within the
provincial departments to meet the needs of local conditions. Major
municipalities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Chongqing - which are
equivalent to provinces in their status within the administrative system -
possess public security bureaus that possess similar functional offices as
their provincial counterparts. For example, a list of the major
responsibilities for Beijing's Public Security Bureau is given on its

Subordinate to the provincial public security departments are a myriad of
public security branches and police stations at the levels of prefecture,
county, township and village. At each level, the public security offices
are accountable to the public security offices of the level immediately
above them, creating a firm chain of command. At the same time, public
security offices at each administrative level are also subordinated to the
Communist Party headquarters and the government at that level of

One major effect of this "vertical and horizontal accountability" is that
public security offices at every level of the administrative hierarchy are
held liable by their superiors - those within the public security system
and non-public security officials at their corresponding levels of
administration - should they fail to maintain effective control over their
respective areas of responsibilities. This system thereby puts great
pressure on public security offices at each level to "perform". This system
can be seen in action simply by examining the state's repression of the
Falun Gong movement.

When the central government in Beijing became annoyed with the regular
influx of Falun Gong protestors from areas outside the capital, it
threatened provincial governments with punishment if they were unable to
control their respective populations from making their way to Beijing. This
threat was then relayed from the provincial governments to their respective
subordinates at the prefecture, county, township and even village levels.
These government leaders naturally turned to public security officials at
corresponding administrative levels for the execution of these directives.
At the same time, it is clear that public security officials also received
similar orders from their superiors within the public security system. In
addition to directives issued within the public security system, public
security officials were also pressured by government leaders at
corresponding administrative levels to ensure the effectiveness of
enforcement. This "systemic" factor partly explains some of the most
egregious abuses against Falun Gong practitioners as well as adherents of
other religions and beliefs.

In theory, the central government's State Administration for Religious
Affairs (SARA) oversees religious affairs in China. A key function of SARA
and its subordinate offices is registering religious groups and venues. In
general, these offices are tasked with ensuring that individual believers
and groups comply with state regulations. To meet this objective, like most
Chinese bureaucracies, there are provincial and local SARA offices,
allowing the agency to keep an eye on all religious organisations,
individuals and activities throughout the country.

However, it is important to note that SARA lacks enforcement powers. Once
SARA has determined that religious groups are either illegal - meaning
unregistered - or that they or individual believers are conducting illegal
activities, the matter would then be turned over to the law enforcement
agency - namely, the Public Security Ministry and its subordinate

Widely held is the view that the Chinese Communist state is deeply
suspicious of religion and its impact on political life and society. It
maintains an ambiguous position that religion is likely to endure for a
long time, but still needs to be closely controlled.

This ambiguous stance can also be seen in the analysis of religion within
the Chinese public security community. An entry entitled "religion and
crime" in the "Chinese Encyclopaedia of Public Security" states that on the
one hand, "religion has a preventive function with regard to crimes; it can
reduce crimes." Moreover, "there is no connection between religion and
criminal behaviour." Religion "can neither reduce crimes nor produce
crimes." Yet, on the other hand, "under certain conditions, religion can
cause crimes - for example, crimes caused by religious fanaticism and
religious wars."

The encyclopaedia entry concludes that "religious activity can exceed a
country's legally permissible boundary, such as disrupting public order,
harm the health of the citizens, obstruct state education system, etc. [It
can] even be used by political enemy forces to engage in activities that
counter the current socialist system. This causes the use of religious
beliefs to commit crimes that possess strong political colourings, and
generates a stark contrast with using superstitious activity to commit
financial and sex crimes."

The Criminal Law has already bestowed on the public security bureaucracy
the power to crack down on "cults" and "heresies" (see F18 News 28 April
2004 Indeed, the public
security system gains legal entry into the realm of religious affairs by
virtue of its legal responsibility to eliminate "cults", which are
considered socially deviant, anti-Communist, and therefore to be

Article 300 of the Criminal Law provides punishments for those who
"organise or make use of superstitious sects, secret societies or heretical
organisations, or utilise superstition to disrupt the implementation of
state laws and administrative rules and regulations". The "Chinese Public
Security Encyclopaedia" also includes entries about the prohibition of
"feudal superstitions," "cults," and "secret societies". In addition, the
state has apparently adopted an unwritten policy that "illegality" is
synonymous with "cults", providing the public security system with even
greater latitude to arrest, detain and imprison religious believers without
due process.

A review of recent Chinese public security journals reveals a significant
interest in the issue of religion and "cults" among researchers in the
public security community. A key theme of these analyses is the alarmist
emphasis on the rapid growth of "cults" worldwide. Moreover, these analyses
often go to great lengths to distinguish "cults" from orthodox religions.
For example, in one article written by a faculty member of the People's
Public Security University in Beijing, published in the June 2003 issue of
the Journal of Shanxi Police Academy, "cults" are distinguished from
religions in the following areas.

First, whereas religions establish "superhuman" deities as the objects of
their beliefs, "cults" establish human leaders as deities. Second, whereas
religions emphasise helping their adherents to focus on the here and now -
even though religions also possess apocalyptic visions - "cults" advocate
the impending destruction of the current world. Third, whereas religions
are organised and possess well-defined rules to regulate the behaviour of
their adherents, "cults" use deception and other means to force their
adherents to engage in immoral behaviour, disobey laws and regulations, and
engage in violence. Fourth, whereas most religions do not advocate the
overthrow of governments, "cults" see governments as the personification of
evil and advocate their overthrow. Given this perception of the nature of
"cults", the writer argued that the state must establish effective
countermeasures to contain their growth.

In the June 2003 of the Journal of Hunan Public Security College, a faculty
member of the college wrote that the state must take six steps to achieve
this objective. First, various state agencies, including public security
and religious affairs organs, must cooperate to actively "elevate
ideological understanding". Second, propaganda and intelligence work must
be strengthened. Third, the state must accelerate the "construction" of
"spiritual" and "materialist" "civilisations." In other words, economic
development must be broadened and accelerated and more people educated.

Fourth, public security officers need to be careful in their use of weapons
in their crackdowns against "cults" so as to prevent others from accusing
the state of using inappropriate force to enforce the law. Fifth, during
the enforcement of the law, public security officers need to distinguish
between the criminals and the victims and must follow legal procedures.
Finally, the writer recommended that the Chinese government increase its
cooperation with foreign governments, with particular emphasis on adopting
the procedures and institutions of foreign states, such as France, Malaysia
and Japan.

In looking at this list of countermeasures, the lack of imagination is
striking. The repeated emphasis on improving "ideological understanding"
and strengthening propaganda smack of Communist thinking. Related to this
point is the fact that some of the proposed countermeasures reveal a basic
lack of understanding of the factors that contribute to individuals having
a religious belief. By suggesting that economic development and high
educational standards would lead to greater secularisation and thus the
demise of "cults" (and religions, of course), the writer maintains the
Marxist materialist position and is thus blind to the fact that many
religious adherents and "cult" followers are well-educated and economically
well-off. Indeed in major urban areas in recent years, Christianity has
grown tremendously among college-educated young professionals.

However, perhaps the most troubling aspect of this list is its
recommendation that China follow the examples of foreign states such as
France and Malaysia. The article made direct reference to the anti-cult
commission recently set up by the French government and its usefulness in
controlling the growth of "cults". The article conveniently overlooks the
many criticisms that were levelled against the French government for
establishing a mechanism that essentially provides the state with power to
define what constitutes an orthodox religion and "cult" and the capacity to
prosecute any groups that are determined to be "cults".

At the same time, "unorthodox" views on the topic also get an airing within
the Chinese public security community. For example, an article in the
February 2003 issue of the Journal of Hunan Public Security College
criticised Article 300 of the Criminal Law for its lack of "logic" and
broad "generalisation". The author pointed out that Western countries,
unlike China, do not have laws that apply specifically to "cults". These
countries only prosecute adherents to "cults" for activities that violate
"concrete" laws. He contended that Western practices are more "scientific"
and more "rational" than their Chinese counterparts. The author concluded
that it is useless to try to stem the tide of "cults" by prosecuting them
through criminal laws and advocated either abolishing or significantly
reforming Article 300.

Yet, lest we become too engrossed in this "unorthodox" thinking, the author
of the article reminded us several times that he is not a "cult"
sympathiser or even one who is agnostic about the nature of organisations
that have been determined as "cults". He agreed with his peers in the
public security community on how far the proliferation of "cults" threatens
Chinese society. He argued that "cults" endanger society because they hold
beliefs that devalue human life, destroy the balance of social order, and
endanger the "guiding role" of Marxism in China's "ideological realm" as
well as the Communist Party's political leadership.

According to the author, his opposition to Article 300 of the Criminal Law
and similar criminal laws against "cults" is based on his belief that such
laws and practices only exacerbate the situation by forcing more "cultic"
adherents to become martyrs while driving many "cultic" groups

These are without doubt disturbing views, particularly given that public
security officers are at the frontline of executing state laws and
government policies. In this regard, Western observers broadly agree that
the Chinese public security system must undergo serious reforms. Indeed, as
seen above, many Chinese officials and scholars agree that reforms of the
current police system are much needed, whatever their political or
ideological motivations may be.

For these "reformers", changes must also take place in areas other than
religion. For example, earlier this year, there were reports that China's
senior policymakers were considering abolishing the infamous
reeducation-through-labour system. Murray Scot Tanner, a noted American
expert on the Chinese public security system, also observed that an intense
debate has developed within the public security community about the need to
abolish or reform the use of torture.

However, in the end, what is surely recognised is that reforming the public
security system is insufficient to guarantee the protection of religious
freedom or any other human right. The reason is simple. The public security
system is merely an "instrument" of state repression. Views held by members
of that community are simply extensions of those maintained by China's
senior Communist leaders.

This is not to say that local officials do not take things into their own
hands. They certainly do. However, for the most part, they have been able
to escape prosecution. For example, Article 251 of the Criminal Law states
that government officials who illegally deprive citizens of their religious
freedom may be sentenced to up to two years in prison. However, no instance
has become known of officials prosecuted for this type of violation.
Without the sympathetic support of their superiors in higher levels of
government, it is doubtful that these officials could have escaped

Unfortunately, it is likely this trend will continue in the foreseeable
future. In this regard, the arguments of the author of the article
criticising Article 300 of the Criminal Law contain some truth. He argued
that the key to resolve the "cult" problem is improving "the social
structure" and raising the "quality of the principal participants of social
activities". Similarly, the key to resolving the state's repression of
"cults" and religious groups that the state deems to be "cultic" is to
instil in the Chinese official culture - and the population at large - the
perspective that no one, including the state, has a right to determine
whether a religion is orthodox. This determination certainly cannot be made
on political or ideological grounds.

Furthermore, for the "rule of law" to mean anything, laws must be created -
to the extent possible - not as instruments of political, social or
ideological interests. They must instead be "constructed", to use Communist
parlance, on the understanding that individual rights must be protected
even as the interests of the majority are respected.

For more background information see Forum 18's surveys of: the prospects
for religious freedom in China at ; the blocking of
religious websites at ;
and of the Chinese legal system and religious freedom at .

A printer-friendly map of China is available from ex.html?Parent=asia&Rootmap=china

Forum 18 News Service. All rights reserved.

You may reproduce or quote this article provided that credit is given to

Past and current Forum 18 information can be found at