Recent Chinese dealings with faith groups reflect a pattern of government restrictions on religion

Source: Pew Research Center

Police patrol as Muslims leave after morning prayers at a mosque in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. (Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

While the Chinese government asserts that it protects religious freedom, a series of annual Pew Research Center reports on religious restrictions around the globe have detailed government efforts aimed at maintaining strict control over religious beliefs and practices in the country. Two recent events have brought this into focus: China’s agreement with the Vatican on how bishops are appointed, and restrictions China has placed on predominantly Muslim ethnic Uighurs.

China has long wrangled with the Vatican over naming of bishops in an effort to maintain state control over the church. That dispute was back in the news last month when the Vatican agreed to accept the legitimacy of seven bishops who had been appointed by the Chinese government, breaking with its longstanding policy of not recognizing bishops unless they have been selected by the pope. Some Catholics and others have criticized the agreement for ceding to China too much control over church matters.

The deal with the Vatican comes at a time when China also has come under fire for reportedly detaining at least 1 million Uighurs in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang province. The government, however, denies the allegations and says their actions in Xinjiang are necessary to combat religious extremism and separatism.

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