BEIJING, April 3 (Xinhua) -- China pledged to continue to respect and protect its citizens' freedom of religious belief in a white paper published Tuesday.
As a socialist country under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), China adopts policies on freedom of religious belief based on national and religious conditions to protect citizens' right to freedom of religious belief, build active and healthy religious relationships, and maintain religious and social harmony, said the white paper published by the State Council Information Office, titled "China's Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief."
Protecting freedom of religious belief, properly handling religious relations and adapting them to the times, and curbing religious extremism are common tasks facing all countries around the world, said the white paper.
China will uphold the principle that religions in China must be Chinese in orientation and provide active guidance to religions so that they can adapt themselves to the socialist society, it said.
The major religions practiced in China, which are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism, have a total of nearly 200 million believers and more than 380,000 clerical personnel.
"Religious believers and non-believers respect each other, and live in harmony, committing themselves to reform and opening up and the socialist modernization, and contribute to the realization of the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation," it said.
The white paper introduced China's basic policies and legal guarantees for freedom of religious belief, religious activities, the role of religious groups and religious relations in China.
The Chinese government supports all religions in upholding the principle of independence and self-management, according to the document.
It allows religious groups, clerical personnel and believers to manage religious affairs by themselves in accordance with the Constitution and law.
"This principle is a historic choice made by Chinese religious believers in the Chinese people's struggle for national independence and social progress, as Catholicism and Protestantism, which were known as foreign religions in China, had long been controlled and utilized by colonialists and imperialists," it said.
The religious activities of foreigners in China are protected in accordance with the law, the white paper said.
China respects foreigners' freedom of religious belief within its territory, and is committed to protecting friendly relations, cultural and academic exchanges about religion between foreigners and Chinese religious groups.
Foreigners may attend religious activities at temples, mosques, churches, and other sites for religious activities, but shall conduct religious activities in line with law, it stressed.
The law also prohibits overseas nongovernmental organizations from illegally engaging in or sponsoring religious activities.
Religious extremism and violent terrorist activities are dealt with in accordance with the law, the document noted.
China opposes all extremism that seeks to instigate hatred, incite discrimination and advocate violence by distorting religious doctrines or through other means, it said.
It also forbids any discriminatory behavior on the grounds of region, ethnicity and religion.
"China takes measures against the propagation and spread of religious extremism, and at the same time, carefully avoids linking violent terrorism and religious extremism with any particular ethnic group or religion," it said.
DEVELOPMENT OF RELIGIOUS GROUPS
There are about 5,500 religious groups in China, including seven national organizations, and about 144,000 places of worship registered for religious activities in China, including 33,500 Buddhist temples of different schools, 9,000 Taoist temples, 35,000 Islamic mosques, 6,000 Catholic churches and places of assembly spread across 98 dioceses, and 60,000 Protestant churches and places of assembly, according to the white paper.
Religious texts and literature have been published, religious education systems improved and social security for religious clerical personnel enhanced.
All normal religious activities, which believers conduct at places of worship or in their own homes, are protected by law, and no organization or individual may infringe on these rights, the white paper said.
Religious groups in China have made efforts to interpret religious teachings and rules according to China's conditions and contemporary needs, actively engaged in charity activities and conscientiously resisted extremism.
About 20,000 prominent religious figures are serving as deputies and members at all levels of people's congresses and committees of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, according to the document.