02/07/2007, 00.00
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Official survey reveals over 300 million believers

This figure is three times that previously estimated by the government. The first substantial survey on faith conducted by two university professors and published on government media shows that Christianity is the religion that has grown the most over time.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Three hundred million Chinese people believe in a religion, three times more than previously estimated by the Communist government, according to the first substantial survey on faith conducted by two university professors and carried in a government newspaper, the China Daily.

The survey revealed that 31.4% of those aged 16 and above considered themselves to adhere to some religion. The data was based on research conducted on a sample of 4,500 people interviewed by professors Tong Shijun and Liu Zhongyu of the East China Normal University in Shanghai.

Those working on the report said the religion that has seen the biggest growth is Christianity: 12% of believers, or 40 million people, declared that they were followers of Christ. In 2005, Beijing said there were 16 million Christians while there were around 10 million in the late 1990s, always according to government statistics.

Asked about the reasons behind this religious revival, 24.1% of the cohort said religion “shows the true path of life”, while 28% said it “helps cure illness, avoid disasters and ensure that life is smooth”.

Liu said it was rural areas that were most affected by the phenomenon, even if this “was not a result of poverty as a large portion of new believers came from economically developed coastal areas.”

The average age of believers has dropped: around two-thirds of those interviewed were aged between 16 and 35 while only 9.6% were 55 years or more.

Beijing officially recognises five religions: Buddhism Islam, Taoism, Catholicism and Protestant Christianity. The poll said about 200 million Chinese “are Buddhists, Taoists or worshippers of legendary figures such as the Dragon King and God of Fortune”.

The Chinese regime allows the practice of religion only in places of worship – churches, mosques and temples – that are strictly controlled. Those who refuse to submit to monitoring, so-called “unofficial communities”, are frequently molested or arrested.

Only last week, a group of Chinese dissidents testified before the US Commission on international religious freedom and confirmed the occurrence of widespread and violent acts of discrimination committed by the government against believers who are not controlled. 

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