China / Society

Money collected illegally in name of religion at nonreligious venues

By Xu Wei (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-03 07:32

Authorities have launched a three-year campaign targeting the illegal collection of funds at nonreligious venues, after a number of scenic spots nationwide were found to have accepted donations in the name of religious activities.

According to Chinese regulations, only religious venues that are registered with religious affairs authorities can organize religious activities and accept religious donations.

"Religious donations can only be used for religious purposes. However, the donations that are gathered at those nonreligious venues are mostly used for profits," Liu Jinguang, a spokesman for the State Administration for Religious Affairs, said on Thursday.

The campaign was launched by the administration and five other central government departments.

Liu said that a large number of venues carry the name of a Buddhist or Taoist temple even though they are not officially registered.

"Some of those venues are located inside tourism areas, while some are cultural relics," he said.

In one recent case, donation boxes placed in the worship halls of Tanzhe Temple in Beijing became an important source of revenue for a publicly-listed company in the capital's Mentougou district, Xinhua News Agency reported in December.

The administration said on Thursday that similar cases have also been found in Shijiazhuang and Chengde of Hebei province, and Guilin of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

Master Mingjie, a spokesman for the Buddhist Association of China, said the association would support the rectification of illegal donations at nonreligious venues as it would help protect the reputation of the religion.

Mingjie said the association would push for more transparent use of donation money at its Buddhist temples.

The donations at Beijing's Guangji Temple are managed by lay Buddhists and the Buddhist monks, said the abbot, Master Yanjue.

"The keys to the donation boxes are owned by the lay Buddhists and the monks. The donation money is taken out four times each month and will go strictly to the bank account of the temple," he said.

Meng Zhiling, a spokesman for the Chinese Taoist Association, said illegal donations are difficult to root out at nonreligious venues because of local protectionism.

"For many unregistered temples, it was easy money. It has also bred corruption in local government departments," he said.


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