As a faithful reader of Daily Observer, I’m following a very thought-provoking serialized article Seek Knowledge in China by Umar Faruq Abd-Allah, PH.D. Talking about the advent, development and current situation of Chinese Muslim Hui minority from a historical, religious and cultural perspective, this article helps a lot for a better understanding of the social religious life of China.
Nevertheless, there is one assertion which I disagree with. The article claims that the People’s Republic of China, as a Marxist state, is “antagonistic to all religion, whether indigenous Chinese, Islamic or Christian.” This cannot be farther from the truth.
The truth is that the Chinese government protects freedom of religious belief and the Chinese People of all ethnicity enjoy full religious freedom and social religious harmony. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China stipulates that “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No State organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.”
In China, patriotic religious leaders receive respect from all walks of life. Many of them are elected as state leaders too. Among present and former Vice Chairpersons of Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference,famous religious figures like 10th and 11th Panchen Lama of the Tibetan Buddhism, famous Muslim scholar Burhan al-Shahidi and Bishop Ding Guangxun of the Christianity stand out prominently.
Nowadays, all the main religions in China, including Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism are flourishing. Chinese citizens may freely choose and express their religious beliefs, and make clear their religious affiliations. There are over 100 million followers of various religious faiths, among which over 22 million are muslims. There are more than 139,000 sites for religious activities, among which 35,000-odd mosques are served by 45,000 Imams and Akhunds.
Traditionally and culturally, China is not a religious nation. Yet China is inclusive and accommodating enough so as both native and foreign religions can all exist and prosper in China.
The Chinese government maintains that religious belief is a citizen’s personal affair. While stressing the protection of freedom of religious belief, China pays equal attention to the protection of the freedom not to believe in religion.Thus in history and at present all the religions in China coexist in harmony and their followers get on well with fellow citizens with no religious belief.
With chaotic situation in much of the world, it is not incidental that China and The Gambia both enjoy religious and social harmony. And this is something that we should spare no efforts to uphold and safeguard.
XIA Xiaoxi Counsellor
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China