Freedom of Religion in China Under the Current Legal Framework and Foreign Religious Bodies

15 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2014

See all articles by Ping Xiong

Ping Xiong

University of South Australia - School of Law

Date Written: 2013


China is a country with a long history of religious practice. The history of the five major religions being practiced now in China can be traced back for centuries. Taoism, which originated in China, was established as a religion around 25-220 AD in the late Eastern Han Dynasty. Buddhism was introduced from India as early as the 1st century and gained continuing popularity in China. Christianity did not reach China until the 7th century AD and then disappeared for hundreds of years until it was re-introduced at the end of the Ming dynasty in the 16th century. Islam can be dated back to a mission in 651 AD. Some also consider that Confucianism should be seen as a kind of religion. In addition to these well-known main religions, some minority religions were also practiced in China over a period of more than 400 years. Some were religions introduced from outside of China, such as the Bahá’í Faith, Mormonism, Judaism, Manichaeism, Hinduism, and Zoroastrianism. There were also indigenous Chinese folk religions such as Heaven worship, while non-Han ethnic groups practiced such faiths as Moz, White Stone Religion, Dongbaism, and Bön. This paper intends to introduce the legal framework that concerns freedom of religion and the conduct and activities of foreign religious bodies in China. It intends to help readers, especially foreigners, understand the characteristics of Chinese laws and rules relating to the administration of freedom of religion and to the activities of foreigners and foreign religious bodies. Based on the understanding of the relevant laws and rules, this paper intends to offer some advice to foreigners and foreign religious bodies on their conduct and activities in China. Part II introduces the present situation and the legal framework of Chinese law in relation to freedom of religion. Part III investigates the relevant laws and regulations and examines the characteristics of the current legal framework. Part IV offers some concluding thoughts and advice for foreign religious bodies’ conduct and activities in China.

Keywords: foreign law, religion law

Suggested Citation

Xiong, Ping, Freedom of Religion in China Under the Current Legal Framework and Foreign Religious Bodies (2013). Brigham Young University Law Review, No. 3, 2013, Available at SSRN:

Ping Xiong (Contact Author)

University of South Australia - School of Law ( email )

GPO Box 2471
Adelaide SA 5001

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