On the eve of a major U.S.-China meeting in Washington, the Chinese government has circulated rigid new regulations to control religion in China. The new policies make illegal several dozen specific kinds of religious activity, including evangelistic outreach outside officially permitted church buildings.

Hu Jun-tao, the man picked by Communist Party leaders to be the next top leader of China, will arrive in Washington on Monday to meet with President George W. Bush. When Bush was in Beijing, Hu hosted Bush at a university where the president told students and a national television audience about the importance of his Christian faith. Hu has been one of the key government leaders in planning religious policy in China.

Christianity Today has obtained a confidential advance copy of the new rules that will be issued by the Jiangsu Religious Affairs Bureau to take effect in June. The new guidelines are evidently part of a centrally directed implementation of uniform religious rules throughout China.

Sources who have read them in other provinces say that all the guidelines appear to be identical. Some knowledgeable observers in China say government leaders have opted to issue the rules only on the provincial level, not nationally, in order to keep a low profile and to distance themselves from any protests of the new clampdown.

These rules give government officials license to disregard objections from religious believers. In Section 3, Article 21, the government declares that religious groups must "accept the people's government's administrative management."

Both official and unofficial religious groups have complained in the past that "administrative management" has meant that whatever government officials arbitrarily wanted to do ...

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