to boycott the Olympic opening ceremonies.
The Chinese constitution was drafted in 1921 and included no references to religion. This was part of the beginning of China's move toward communism and atheism. With Mao Tse Tung's Red Book and Cultural Revolution came the persecution of anything associated with religion. During the Cultural Revolution more than 6000 monasteries were destroyed (Time For Kids, p1). For all intensive purposes the political leadership took the place of religion and religious leadership.
Recently the Chinese politicians have revised their constitution to include the word "religion" for the first time since 1921 (America, p6(1)). In addition the politicians included key wording that opened up the possibility of religious observance within China:
"The Party strives to fully implement its basic principals for its work related to religious affairs and rallies religious believers in making contributions to economic and social development" (America, p6(1)).
The Chinese Communist Party leaders have also been quoted as saying that "religion can play a role in creating a "harmonious society", a term they associated with economic growth and social cohesion" (The Christian Century, P19(1)). As stated above, a religion can be practiced if it "rallies religious believers in making contributions to economic and social development". In essence, if your church contributes to the social welfare of the community than it will be approved by the Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB).
Why the Change
For many Chinese, daily life consists of a meager existence. It is better than forty years ago when many Chinese were starving. Many social programs do not meet the needs of the many rural Chinese. Many rural Chinese turn to religious organizations within their villages to fund social programs such as schooling and health care. Because of the great need, and the Chinese Communists Party's inability to meet the need, the Party is turning a "blind eye' to the religious organizations in rural villages (The Economist, p25).
In one village they worship the Black Dragon. Their temple has been rebuilt (it was destroyed by Maoists) and children are encouraged to work hard in the name of the "Black Dragon". The village services are supplemented by funds from the Black Dragon Temple. The Chinese Communist Party has turned a blind eye to the Black Dragon Temple because it does support social services needed by the community that the government cannot afford to provide. The "officials in Yulin, the prefecture to which Hongliutan (the village) belongs, give the Temple their blessing" (The Economist, p25(3)).
Currently, in atheist China, there exists many religions that are practiced. Some who practiced go unnoticed by the Chinese government while others are persecuted. Harmony is used as a determinant as to whether or not a religion is tolerated. If the religion brings social support, like in Hongliutan, then it is allowed (or not noticed). Aproximately 59% of the Chinese population are atheists while the 41% left worship as Taoists, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Dongbaists, Bons, Xiantianists, and Falun