Western media's view on religion blurs reality: China Daily editorial
Should religious activities on the internet be regulated? This question has gained importance for multiple reasons, not least because of the impostors and extremists masquerading as holy saints online.
With the boom of social media, religion has become an easy channel for some people to propagate their doctrines, nefarious and illegal, in the name of religion, even organize sects that could pose a threat to social stability and national security.
No social activity should be allowed to ride roughshod over the law. Religion is no exception. And in nearly all countries there exists a legal boundary for the practice of religion.
But surprisingly, when it comes to religious practice in China, Western observers and media outlets always tend to veer toward the view that religious freedom is restricted.
The fact is, the Constitution of China grants every citizen the right to freedom of religious belief. But since some use religion as a guise to cheat unsuspecting individuals out of their money, lead people up the garden path in the name of religion, or commit other crimes, such as pyramid selling, the Constitution prevents the use of religion for disrupting public order, committing frauds, impairing the health of citizens or interfering with the education system.
No individual should infringe upon the rights of another using religious practice as a pretext. This principle, in some form of the other, is adhered to by almost all governments.
But it is the coveted wish of some Western media outlets to see China free of any regulation on religious activities, even if frauds and religious extremists use the internet to cheat innocent people, lead them astray and create social chaos and security problems.
For instance, the Heaven’s Gate cult in San Diego, California, enticed followers into committing mass suicide in the 1990s in the hope of reaching an "extraterrestrial spacecraft" following Comet Hale-Bopp. Shouldn’t there be a law to prevent such cults from becoming a threat to society, especially in this age of social media?
And that’s exactly what China has done by issuing a draft regulation for monitoring and managing religious activities online, so as to protect the rights and legal interests of Chinese citizens.
Lest it be mistaken as a tool to restrict religious practices, the draft regulation is aimed at preventing religious charlatans from using the internet to corrupt innocent minds and pollute the social environment.