Navigating the Complex Terrain of Freedom of Religion or Belief in China: An In-depth Assessment


Freedom of Religion or Belief (‘FORB’) represents a cornerstone of human rights, as acknowledged in international legal instruments. However, its practical implementation displays wide variation globally, owing to distinctive historical, political, and cultural contexts. This paper presents a critical exploration of FORB within China, a particularly intriguing instance due to its multifaceted religious landscape and its intricate interaction with religion. While Western dialogue often highlights reports of religious persecution within China, the actual situation yields a more sophisticated narrative. Despite significant constraints, there exist spaces of relative liberty and tolerance. This paper employs a nuanced model of religious accommodation to deliver a comprehensive, balanced perspective on FORB within the Chinese setting. The paper first scrutinises China’s constitutional and legal framework concerning religion before proceeding to a series of case studies that offer empirical evidence about the state of FORB across diverse religious communities. By evaluating the relationship between religious freedom, individual autonomy, and societal welfare, the paper elucidates the unique challenges and opportunities related to FORB in China. The paper concludes with an assessment of the primary obstacles and potential strategies for FORB in China, including policy suggestions. This contribution seeks to augment the dialogue surrounding the convergence of law, religion, and society within the Chinese context. It is anticipated that this exploration will not only enhance understanding of FORB in China but also catalyse further discussion in this crucial field of study.


Charles Ho Wang Mak
Lecturer in Law, Robert Gordon University, United Kingdom


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


The Politics of Religion


Freedom of Religion or Belief, Chinese Law

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