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China strengthens control with web-listing of all registered clerics

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(, May24’23) – China has on May 23 expanded its online database of religious workers to cover all the five state-sanctioned religions – Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism – reported the May 24. Any religious figure or personage not appearing in it could be persecuted as fake and what not.

The website, which lists details of registered religious workers, was launched in Feb 2023 and initially gave the public access to information on Buddhist and Taoist monks and clerics.

Religious workers not approved and registered by the Chinese government are not listed.

The Communist Party of China’s United Front Work Department – which oversees religious activities in greater China (the People’s Republic of China) – said at the time that the website could help to expose fraud being carried out by rogue Buddhist and Taoist monks.

But, whatever may be the case, the new rule effectively renders criminal any religious work carried out by clerics and others not approved by the Chinese government.

The report said the Feb 23 move covered all priests, nuns, pastors, clerics and other workers in government-approved Catholic, Protestant and Islamic institutions as well within the scope of the restrictive rule.

Their details – name, gender, photo, religion and denomination, position within the organization and a government-issued registration number – are all publicly available on the website. Users must provide a telephone number to search for information on the site, the report noted.

At the website’s initial launch in February, the United Front Work Department said releasing this information was a way to make religious organizations more self-disciplined. It said the move could help to crack down on fake nuns and monks, amid reports of extortion and sexual abuse by impersonators.

Of course, it did not explicitly say that the crackdown covered religious figures banned from engaging in any kind of religious work for having offended Beijing by their religious, cultural, environmental, humanitarian, charitable or political activities. There is a long list of such affected Tibetan Buddhist figures, led by the state-disappeared 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, Tibet’s second most prominent religious leader. His only crime is that he is recognized by the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader.

The website is part of a broader campaign by China’s officially atheist ruling party to step up control over religious workers through the use of big data and cadres at the grass roots.

The report further said that since 2018, cadres had been assigned to units set up by township and street village committees to surveil the activities of people in religious organizations in their area. That move came after an overhaul that saw the former State Administration for Religious Affairs absorbed into the party system, it added.


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