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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Religious Boom in China After Quake

June 12, 2008

Asahi.com (South Korea)
JUNE 10, 2008

As religious gatherings for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake are
being held in large scales, the Chinese Communist Party is worrying
about a possible explosive increase in religious population. The
party is tolerating such religious events in consideration of public
sentiment for now, but is known to be jittery about the possibility
of uncontrollable trouble.

WORSHIPS AND BUDDHIST SERVICE FOR EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS

The Buddhist Association of China held a large-scale service for
those who were killed or displaced by the earthquake on May 14, two
days after the disaster occurred, at Guangji Temple in Beijing, and
also organized a Sutra-reciting prayer ceremony five days later.

Yonghegong Lama, a Tibetan Buddhist temple in Beijing, also held a
prayer service to wish victims an easy passage to eternity.

Lianhe Zaobao, a Singaporean newspaper, reported that all kinds of
religious groups, including Buddhists, Catholics, Christians, Muslims
and Taoists, are stepping forward and hold large-scale gatherings for
the spirits of the victims.

SENSE OF UNCERTAINTY INCREASED THE NUMBER OF BELIEVERS

The Chinese government has never disclosed statistics on the
country's religious population. According to data from China`s state
news agency Xinhua and Baidu, China`s most popular search engine, the
State Religious Affairs Bureau estimates that there are about 100
million believers.

However, a poll of 4,500 Chinese men and women aged 16 and older
conducted by a professor at Huadong Teachers` University in Shanghai
in 2005 revealed that the number of believers in the country is
estimated to be around 300 million, almost triple the government figure.

Experts say that such an explosive increase in religious population,
which stood at just 20 to 30 million before the 1978 market opening
of the country, is caused by the increasing number of people feeling
a sense of uncertainty about their future in the market economy,
different from the planned economy, which had guaranteed basic
livelihoods for them. Another reason is believed to be the increasing
gap in income and wealth among people.

Furthermore, there are circulating rumors that "a disaster comes on
the day that the sum of month and date equals eight, as in the case
with the bloody protest for independence of Tibet on March 14 and the
Sichuan earthquake on May 12" or that "a massive flood will come
next." These rumors are also prompting people worried about their
safety to seek religious facilities.

WORRIES ABOUT SIDE EFFECTS

China provides the constitutional freedom of religion but has
controlled religion in reality, by stipulating, "Religions shall not
destroy social order or foreign forces shall not dominate religions."

However, the Chinese government even permitted missionary work by
Taiwanese Buddhists so that those displaced from the earthquake can
find consolation and prevent their discontentment from spiraling into rage.

But, as those victims increasingly are flocking to religious
facilities in the disaster area and religious groups are holding
prayer events one after another, Beijing is reportedly agonizing over
countermeasures against potential side effects, expressing concern
that the spreading religious boom could shake up its ruling structure.

However, a leading researcher at Shanghai University assessed the
situation positively, saying, "(The prayer event boom) shows Chinese
people's respect for life and openness to religion."
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