BEIJING -- For the first time in its history, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has mentioned the word "religion" in an amendment to its Constitution adopted on Sunday at the closing session of the 17th CPC National Congress.
To incorporate into its Constitution the principles and policies the Party has formulated for guiding efforts to strengthen the work related to ethnic and religious affairs, among others, is conducive to their full implementation and getting better results in the Party's work in this area, said a resolution on the amendment to the Constitution.
It said the insertion has been made in light of the new circumstances and tasks.
The CPC is atheistic but allows freedom of religious beliefs. China is home to 100 million religious faithful, largely Buddhists, Taoists, Christians, Catholics and Islamites
"The Party's secret in handling well China's religious issues lies in its principles and policies," said Ye Xiaowen, director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs. "Their insertion in the Party Constitution shows the Party is sincere, and capable, of its implementation of policies on the freedom of religious beliefs. "
He said religious problems are reported in many parts of the world. "But in China we enjoy peace and quiet because we have the established policies and principles."
With the new elaboration on religious work, Ye said the Party is determined to enhance the active role of the religious circle and faithful in boosting social and economic development.
"I learned of the amendment on the Internet and was inspired," said Living Buddha Dainzin Qoizha in the Shannan Prefecture of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. He's been watching the week-long Party congress on the Internet.
Dainzin Qoizha is a government employee in Shannan. More than half of his colleagues are CPC members.
"I'm on very good terms with them," he said. "As a non- Communist, I'm in charge of ethnic and religious work. The prefecture's Party committee is very supportive."
Hao Peng, vice Party chief in Tibet, described the relations between the Party and the religious faithful as "united, cooperative and mutual respectful".
Tibet currently has more than 1,700 religious sites, 46,000 monks and nuns and more than 30 living Buddhas whose reincarnation has been recognized by the central or regional governments.
At least 600 Tibetan Buddhist faithful are working at local legislatures, political advisory bodies, administrations of religious affairs and state-owned businesses and institutions.
The CPC's tenet of building socialism with Chinese characteristics, featuring prosperity, democracy, cultural advancement and harmony, reflect the common aspirations of Tibet's religious faithful, said Zhukang Tubdankezhub, president of the Tibetan branch of the Buddhist Association of China.
As the host country of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, China has pledged to offer religious services for foreigners arriving for the Games.
"A large number of religious faithful will be arriving for the Games," Ye Xiaowen told reporters at a news conference on the sidelines of the 17th Party congress.
He said China is working on religious facilities at its Olympic venues with the help of the International Olympic Committee and referring to the practices at previous Games. "Our religious services will be up to previous standards."
Ye also dismissed allegations that China restricted the printing and sale of Bibles, which he said receive state subsidies and other preferential policies.
China, with 16 million Protestant Christians, has printed 42 million Bibles, he said.