China makes it mandatory for religious venues to hoist national flag at important events

Officially-recognised faith groups in China are promoting the flying of national flags at religious events amid a push by the ruling Communist Party to extend its ideological control over religious life.

Flying the flag would emphasise that the fates of the party, nation and individual are "bound tightly together", a statement on the website of the party's United Front Work Department, that oversees such groups, said on Wednesday.

"Raising the flag at religious venues abets the strengthening of religious figures' and religious believers' national and civic consciousness and creates a sense of the Chinese nation's community," said the statement, issued following a conference of groups representing Buddhists, Taoists, Protestants, Catholics and Muslims.

A report on Global Times said the resolution was adopted following the sixth joint conference of the country's recognised religious groups, which met in Beijing on Tuesday. The meeting was attended by heads and representatives of the Buddhist Association of China, the Taoist Association of China, the Islamic Association of China, and the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China. In addition, Wang Zuoan, deputy head of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China's Central Committee, and director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, also participated in the event.

 China makes it mandatory for religious venues to hoist national flag at important events

Representational image. Reuters

A report in The Indian Express said that the national flag shall be raised at religious venues on important national celebrations and religious events such as National Day, International Labour Day, New Year's Day, Spring Festival, and also important events of each religion. It quoted from the statement to say, "Raising the flag at religious venues abets the strengthening of religious figures and religious believers' national and civic consciousness, and creates a sense of the Chinese nation's community."

The resolution stated that when the national and religious flags are both present at a particular place, it's the former that would be given a more prominent display.

But while some users on the internet criticised the move, saying raising the national flag at a religious site violates the principle of separation of politics from religion, Yan Kejia, director of the Institute of Religious Studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, was quoted in Global Times as saying, "Raising the national flag is a way of expressing religious believers' spirit of patriotism. It has nothing to do with interference of religious freedom."

The officially atheistic party has tightened its grip over the country's five officially recognised religions this year, ordering especially that Christians and Muslims — religions considered foreign to China — work toward "Sinosisation".

Focus on Islam

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the northwestern region of Xinjiang have been confined to re-education camps, where they are told to repudiate Islam and their traditional Uighur culture and pledge fealty to the party. Authorities have also removed crosses and other exterior identifiers from Christian churches and some have been demolished.

In May this year, the country's top Islamic regulatory body has declared that all mosques must raise the national flag to "promote a spirit of patriotism" among Muslims.

Flags should be hung in a "prominent position" in all mosque courtyards, the China Islamic Association said. This would "further strengthen the understanding of national and civic ideals, and promote a spirit of patriotism among Muslims of all ethnic groups", it read.

Mosques should also publicly display information on the party's "core socialist values", and explain them to devotees via Islamic scripture, so that they will be "deeply rooted in people's hearts", the China Islamic Association, a government-affiliated body with sole power to accredit imams, said.

Regulations on Religious Affairs

China's newly revised 'Regulations on Religious Affairs' came into effect in February this year, and prompted rights groups to voice concern for religious freedoms. The new regulations intensified punishments for unsanctioned religious activities and increased State supervision of religion in a bid to "block extremism" and tackle what Beijing sees as internal threats.

As per the new regulations, mosque staff had to organise studies of the Chinese Constitution and other relevant laws — particularly the new religious regulations, the letter said.

They should also study classics and set up courses on traditional Chinese culture, while being sure to focus only on Muslim sages of Chinese origin rather than those of foreign origin, it said.

The goal, it was said, was for mosques to become a "solid platform for the study of the party and the country's laws and policies" in addition to houses of worship, and thereby develop among Muslims an understanding of a common Chinese identity" with the majority.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Aug 02, 2018 17:52:38 IST