Information on the Chinese Patriotic Churches and whether they celebrate the Christian sacrament of baptism [CHN28738.E]

Amnesty International's Religious Repression in China report and Human Rights Watch's China: Religious Persecution Persists report state that since the 1950s, China's five official religions have been monitored by state-controlled "patriotic organizations," which also assist in implementing government policy (July 1996, 8; Dec. 1995, 6). For Catholicism, the state-recognized organizations are the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA) and the Bishop's Conference, and for Protestanism, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and the Chinese Christian Council (CCC) are the authorized organizations (ibid.).

According to Human Rights Watch, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement insists that Protestant denominations renounce any link to foreign missionary organizations and that, collectively, they form a "post-denominational Christian church" (Dec. 1995, 7). Please consult Amnesty International's Religious Repression in China report and Human Rights Watch's China: Religious Persecution Persists report, both available at all Regional Documentation Centres, as well Response to Information Request CHN8824.E of 11 June 1991, for additional information on Chinese Patriotic Churches.

Several sources state that official Chinese Catholic Patriotic Churches are not permitted to recognize the authority of the Pope (AFP 22 Jan. 1998; AI July 1996, 9; HRW Dec. 1995, 7; The Washington Post 25 Jan. 1998). In China, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Church has 4 million members, while the numbers for the clandestine Catholic Church, openly loyal to the Vatican and also called the "silent church," hover around 3 million members (AFP 22 Jan. 1998). According to the same AFP report, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association elected the bishop of Beijing, Monsignor Fu Tieshan as president of the association (ibid.).

In a 28 October 1997 testimony before the United States House of Representatives Committee of International Relations, Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House stated that "there are priests and bishops in the Patriotic Catholic Church who are also recognized by the Vatican, and some of the official Protestant churches cooperate with underground Christians...But independent churches they are not" (Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony).

The latter source adds that Patriotic churches are prohibited to work with people under the age of 18, that their clergy must preach within set geographical boundaries, and that their church venues must be approved by the government (ibid.).

In reference to baptism, a 22 May 1996 AP report specifies that the sacrament of baptism is limited to people over the age of 18. The same report states that a World Council of Churches delegation to China estimated that the number of baptized Christians was approximately 10 million. In its White Paper on Religious Freedom, the Chinese government states that baptism is among the religious practices protected by law (Xinhua 18 Oct. 1997). A 14 December 1997 AFP report and an April 1995 Beijing Review report also state that the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Churches conduct baptisms. The Beijing Review report adds that some 50,000 to 60,000 people have been baptized annually by Catholic Patriotic Churches in China (Apr. 1995).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 22 January 1998. "Bishop of Beijing Elected President of China's Catholics." (NEXIS)

_____. [Hong Kong, in English]. 14 December 1997. "China's Catholic Church Looks to Pope." (FBIS-CHI-97-347/WNC) [Accessed 17 Feb. 1998]

Amnesty International. July 1996. Religious Repression in China. (AI Index: ASA 17/69/96). London: Amnesty International.

Associated Press (AP). 22 May 1996. "Christianity Is Growing in China 'at Breathtaking Speed,' the World Council of Churches Said Wednesday." (NEXIS)

Beijing Review [in English]. 17-23 April 1995. "Bishop on Catholicism's Acceptance Viewed." (FBIS-CHI-95-078/WNC) [Accessed 17 Feb. 1998]

Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony [Washington]. 28 October 1997. "Testimony October 28, 1997 Nina Shea Director, Center for Religious Freedom House International Relations International Operations and Human Rights in China." (NEXIS)

Human Rights Watch (HRW)/Asia. December 1995. China: Religious Persecution Persists. New York: Human Rights Watch.

Xinhua. 16 October 1997. "China Issues White Paper on Religious Freedom." (BBC Summary 18 Oct. 1997/NEXIS)