For different cultural, political and historical reasons, the Chinese government officially recognises Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism as religions. As in the realm of commerce, medicine, the legal profession or any other human endeavours, China, like many nations and for her own reasons have chosen, as it is her right, to lay down a legal and regulatory framework within which religions are practised.
Within the above five religions, the government does not prefer one religion to another and neither does it care about ecclesiastical or inter-faith doctrinal differences. It does not care whether Jesus is the Son of God, one of the Prophets of Allah or just a mere rabbi. It does not care whether the Virgin Mary or the Saints ought to be worshipped and much less whether the Quakers are pacifists who live according to personal beliefs. Like any other governments in the world, what it does care about are whether they break China’s laws while in China and whether a belief system contravenes the public interest.
In no countries are the clergy or religious institutions free from or above the temporal laws of the land. An American Catholic priest convicted of paedophilia, fraud or mere speeding in America is still guilty and may suffer the appropriate judicial consequences, irrespective of the fact that he is a priest. Should the Church as an organisation in any way be involved, it too is liable to criminal as well as possible civil lawsuits.
Just as there is no such thing as absolute political and commercial freedom, neither is there such a thing as absolute religious freedom. There are only varying degrees of religious freedom that is regulated in turn by ecclesiastic rules, doctrines, temporal laws, social customs and traditions in accordance with the demands of the relevant state and society. For example, many in the UK believe in Fengshui, but nevertheless in a test case before the English Court of Appeal, the Judges, as it is within their remit, chose not to recognise it as a religion, just as they do not recognise any religion that is not monotheist as a matter of policy. By contrast, because of its Chinese community Indonesia recognises Confucianism as a religion when China only sees it as a school of philosophy, so that just because something is lawful in one country does not make it so in another.
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