Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July 2014, 14:56 GMT

2008 Report on International Religious Freedom - China (Macau)

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Publication Date 19 September 2008
Cite as United States Department of State, 2008 Report on International Religious Freedom - China (Macau), 19 September 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d5cbc4c.html [accessed 23 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

The Basic Law, which serves as the Constitution of the Macau Special Administrative Region (Macau SAR), provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report.

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The region has a total area of 11 square miles and, according to official statistics in 2006, a population of 530,000. Buddhism, which is practiced by nearly 80 percent of the population, is the largest religion. Approximately 4 percent of the population is Roman Catholic and more than 1 percent is Protestant. Smaller religious groups include Baha'is, estimated at 2,500 persons; Muslims, estimated at 400 persons; and Falun Gong practitioners, estimated at 200 persons.

There are approximately 50 Buddhist and Taoist temples, 60 Christian churches (of which 18 are Catholic), and 1 mosque. Approximately 50 percent of primary and secondary students were enrolled in schools operated or funded by religious organizations. These schools may, under law, provide religious education, but the Government did not maintain statistics on this subject.

Many Protestant denominations are represented, including Baptist, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Pentecostal churches. Evangelical denominations and independent local churches also exist in the region. The Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) enrolled students in virtual seminary programs.

As of December 2006 an estimated 70 Protestant churches with 6,000 members conducted services in Chinese; attendance was reported to be approximately 4,000 worshippers every Sunday. An estimated 300 Protestants attended services conducted in foreign languages.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

Article 34 of the Basic Law states that "Macau residents shall have freedom of religious belief, and freedom to preach and to conduct and participate in religious activities in public." Furthermore, Article 128 stipulates that "the Government, consistent with the principle of religious freedom, shall not interfere in the internal affairs of religious organizations or in the efforts of religious organizations and their believers to maintain and develop relations with their counterparts outside Macau or restrict religious activities which do not contravene the laws of the SAR."

The Freedom of Religion and Worship Law stipulates that "Freedom of religion and worship are recognized and protected."

The Religious Freedom Ordinance, which remained in effect after the 1999 handover of sovereignty to the People's Republic of China (PRC), provides for freedom of religion, privacy of religious belief, freedom of religious assembly, freedom to hold religious processions, and freedom of religious education. The Government generally respected these rights in practice.

The Religious Freedom Ordinance allows religious organizations to register directly with the Identification Bureau, the bureau that is required under the law to receive and process registrations; applicants need only supply their name, identification card number, contact information, organization name, and copy of the group's charter to register with officials. Religious entities can apply to media organizations and companies to use mass media (television, radio, etc.) to preach, and such applications are generally approved.

The Religious Freedom Ordinance stipulates that religious groups may develop and maintain relations with religious groups abroad. The Catholic Church, which is in communion with the Vatican, recognizes the pope as the head of the Church. In 2003 the Holy See appointed the current coadjutor bishop for the diocese.

Beginning in September 2007, the Macau Inter-University Institute (IIUM), which is affiliated with the Catholic University in Portugal, offered a Christian studies course that included Catholic seminary students from the mainland. According to IIUM's website, the Chief Executive of Macau SAR, Edmund Ho, specifically requested that the school implement a program of study to prepare candidates for the Catholic ministry in the region.

Many religious groups, including Catholic, Protestant, and Baha'i groups, provide extensive social welfare services to the community. The Government subsidizes the establishment of Catholic schools, child care centers, clinics, homes for the elderly, rehabilitation centers, and vocational training centers.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report. Under the Basic Law, the PRC Government does not govern religious practices in the region.

The Falun Gong is not registered with the Identification Bureau. While the Bureau has not issued instructions regarding the Falun Gong, senior officials have stated that Falun Gong practitioners may continue their legal activities despite their lack of registration.

According to Falun Gong practitioners, they were able to practice their daily exercises in public parks, although police observed them once or twice a month and checked personal identification. Falun Gong representatives, however, have claimed that they were denied entry into the region, especially during sensitive political periods, and filed complaints with the police about being denied the right to display photographs of religious activity or abuses against fellow practitioners. The matter had not been resolved by the end of the reporting period.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the region.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Abuses and Discrimination

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Relations among the various religious communities were good, and citizens generally were tolerant of the religious views and practices of others. Public ceremonies and dedications often included prayers by both Christian and Buddhist groups.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. Officers from the U.S. consulate general in Hong Kong met regularly with leaders of all religious groups and spiritual organizations in the region.

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