The Chinese government highly respects the freedom of religions but will never allow the existence of evil cults in the country, a senior Chinese official in charge of religious matters said here Monday.
Respecting freedom of religions and guaranteeing independent running of religious groups are two basic principles of China's religious policy, Ye Xiaowen, Director of China's State Bureau of Religious Affairs, said at a conference on religion.
Stressing that Chinese people now enjoy full freedom of religious beliefs, Ye cited that religious believers in China have now exceeded 100 million, among whom there are more than 10 million Christians, 4 million Catholics, and 18 million Moslems.
Up to 1996, there were more than 85,000 worship sites nationwide for practitioners of Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Christianity and Catholicism to conduct religious activities, Ye said.
The number of religious professionals in China has reached 300, 000, while religious groups exceeded 3000 and higher-learning religious schools amounted to 74, said Ye.
China's religious circles maintain exchanges and contacts with religious groups in more than 70 countries and regions, Ye said.
People from the religious sector also play an active role in the country's political life, with some 17,000 people with religious affiliation elected as deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC) and members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Though the government grants full freedom to religious beliefs, Ye stressed that evil cults like the much-condemned Falun Gong can go nowhere in the country since the Chinese government will never allow any evil cult to harm its people and jeopardize the society.
The Chinese government classified Falun Gong under the category of evil cults given the destructive consequences it caused to the society. A string of criminal activities of Falun Gong fully exposed its anti-human, anti-society and anti-science nature, Ye said.
The cult has claimed 1,600 lives on the mainland, leading to suicides, suicidal blazes, self-mutilation and even children killing their parents, Ye said, noting that any responsible government will not hesitate to take actions to prevent such tragedies from happening.
As for Falun Gong in Hong Kong, Ye said that the Falun Gong group here also takes instructions from Li Hongzhi, leader of the evil cult. Recently, Falun Gong activities in Hong Kong have gone increasingly internationalized and politicized, Ye said.
Hong Kong's Falun Gong group has now peeled off its disguise of "not participating in politics, not opposing the government and not joining force with any political forces," and has targeted directly against the central government, the Chinese official said.
Some people and media in Hong Kong have already expressed doubt on whether the group's activities are in line with the creeds under which the group was registered, Ye said.
He warned that any group or individual attempting to use Hong Kong as a base for Falun Gong activities or as an anti-China base to hamper the implementation of "one country, two systems" and harm Hong Kong's prosperity and stability is doomed to failure.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government is a responsible government, Ye said, adding that he believes that the SAR government is wise and capable enough to handle the Falun Gong matter in Hong Kong.
Ye delivered his speech, entitled "The Development of Chinese Religions in the Past Century in China," as the first keynote speaker at an event organized by the Chinese University of Hong Kong to discuss religions in the past and their future.
Attending the lecture series were hundreds of renowned religious leaders and scholars from the mainland, Hong Kong, China 's Taiwan and the United States.