Natl flag flown at all religious sites in Zhejiang’s Lanxi

By Zhao Yusha Source:Global Times Published: 2016/6/17 0:58:01

Chinese national flags have been raised at all 69 religious sites in the city of Lanxi in East China's Zhejiang Province in order to "have patriotism guide the devotion to religions," the provincial religious committee said Wednesday.

As of Monday, all 69 religious sites in Lanxi - including Christian churches and Buddhist temples - had put up Chinese national flags. In addition, the venues are required to hold a national flag-raising ceremony  at every important festival and holiday to "enhance patriotic education," according to a statement posted on the official website of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee of Zhejiang Province on Wednesday.

"Patriotism and devotion to religion are required by each religious group itself, which should be expressed explicitly. Raising the national flag is one way to demonstrate that," Yan Kejia, the director of the Institute of Religious Studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Numerous netizens on Sina Weibo questioned whether it is appropriate to raise the national flag at religious sites, with some saying they believe it violates the principle of the separation of politics and religion.

A religious studies expert at the Central Institute of Socialism who asked for anonymity told the Global Times on Thursday that Chinese law stipulates that politics and religion should not interfere with each other, but the national flag represents the country, not politics.

"Besides, hanging flags does not intervene in the freedom of religious activities," the expert said.

The government of Zhejiang's Pingyang county on Monday denied a rumor that churches in its jurisdiction have been required to raise national flags and establish offices run by the Communist Party of China.

The national flag was raised at 30 religious sites in Huangshi, Central China's Hubei Province in May 2015, according to a report on the website of the State Administration for Religious Affairs. "Christians are citizens in the first place. Both patriotism and devotion to religion are their obligations," said Xu Chengxiang, head of the Christian Council in Huangshi.

Addressing a conference on religion that concluded on April 23, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to fully implement the Party's policy of religious freedom, manage religious affairs in line with laws and retain the principles of religious independence and self-administration, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

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