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Freedom of religion widely respected in SAR – US State Department

Freedom of religion is generally respected and protected in the Macao SAR, despite some instances where it could be restricted in extraordinary situations for national security reasons, a US State Department report says.

The US State Department recently released its 2021 International Religious Freedom Report for China, which includes Hong Kong and Macau, with a review of residents’ freedom of religious belief, freedom to preach and participate in religious activities in public and the freedom to pursue religious education.

“The law protects the right of religious assembly and stipulates that religious groups can develop and maintain relations with religious groups abroad. Under the Basic Law, the SAR government, rather than the central government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), protects religious freedom in the SAR,” the report notes.

A religious demographic analysis of the city also indicated that, according to 2015 statistics from the Association of Religion Data Archives, 48.1% of Macau’s population were popular clerics, 17.3% Buddhist, 11% Taoist, 4.5% Catholics, 2.5% other Christians, 1.2% other religious groups (including Hindus, Muslims and Jews) and 15.4% were declared non-religious.

The majority of Macau’s population practices Buddhism or Chinese folk religions, with many people practicing a mixture of Buddhism, Confucianism,
and Chinese folk religions.

About 4.5% of the population is Roman Catholic, almost half of whom are foreign servants and other expatriates, and 2.5% of the population is Protestant.

Macau’s Muslim population was estimated at between 5,000 and 10,000, with smaller religious groups such as the Baha’is believed to have over 2,000 members, and Falun Gong practitioners between 20 and 50 people.

Falun Gong practitioners have reported that they continue to be able to discuss their beliefs openly with Macau residents, despite the religion currently being banned in mainland China.

According to the report, some religious groups have continued to state that they retain their ability to carry out charitable activities on the mainland by working through official channels and officially recognized churches.

The SAR government would also continue to provide financial support, regardless of religious affiliation, to religious groups to establish schools, nurseries, clinics, homes for the aged, rehabilitation centers and training centers. professional.

“The government also continued to refer victims of human trafficking to religious organizations for the provision of support services,” the report notes.

Still, the report mentions some controversial incidents reported last year, including when a video showed more than 100 primary school students from a major Catholic school in Macau singing “We are the successors of communism” in front of the ruins of St. Paul.

“The incident reportedly sparked an online discussion about the ability of religious schools to preserve their religious values ​​and implement their educational mission while conforming to government ideology,” the report noted.

The Catholic Church in Macau, in communion with the Holy See, has continued to recognize the Pope as its head, while in mainland China, Beijing elects and appoints its own bishops through its Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church of China (BCCCC), an autonomous ecclesiastical authority body.

Regarding national security in 2020, the RAS enacted regulations to its National Security Act 2009 allowing the Judicial Police to create four new national security branches with powers to investigate groups and the religious personnel, among others.