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China in effort to tackle commercial abuse of Buddhism

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-06-10 09:14

China has explored numerous means, including information disclosure and lawmaking, to tackle the increasing commercialization in places of worship across the country, according to a senior official in religious affairs.

New forms of infringement of religious rights and interests have sprung up, making it more urgent to protect and promote these rights, said Jiang Jianyong, deputy head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, during a meeting of the Buddhist Association of China held this week in Changsha,Hunan province.

According to some delegates, companies and individuals in some regions are increasingly exploiting Buddhism for commercial interests under the guise of Buddhist cultural parks and eliciting donations.

A prominent monk in Hengyang, Hunan province, arbitrarily approved a 5-million-yuan ($730,000) procurement of 18 pine trees from Japan, said Huai Hui, secretary-general of the provincial Buddhist association.

"Some ancient temples have been surrounded by so-called cultural parks, with nonreligious buildings constructed for commercial use," said Sheng Hui, deputy director of the BAC.

A number of "fake Buddhists" have been carrying out illegal religious activities, extorting money and luring followers.

An authentication database was launched last year to confirm the identity of living Buddhas. With roots traceable to the 13th century AD, the reincarnation of Buddhas is a unique inheritance system within Tibetan Buddhism. The BAC has issued certificates to living Buddhas since 2010.

"To protect religious rights and uphold dignity, Buddhist associations across China have been asked to tighten their management of personnel and strictly prohibit any commercial activities," Sheng said.

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