By An Baijie
The State Administration for Religious Affairs published the names and locations of 6,195 verified Buddhist and Taoist monasteries on Thursday in an effort to fight illegal profits disguised as religion.
The information was posted on the administration’s website, where users can type in the name of a monastery to confirm its status.
Some nonreligious venues have employed fake monks and Taoists to accept donations from believers and tourists, and some of them even badgered tourists for money, said Liu Jinguang, spokesman for the administration.
Liu said at a news conference on Thursday that the move is aimed at fighting illegal profiteering.
The verified monasteries are located in Beijing, Shanghai, Shandong and Zhejiang provinces, while information about religious venues in other provinces will be publicized after the authorities have sorted them, Liu said.
The administration is preparing for revisions to the Regulation on Religious Affairs, which was issued by the State Council a decade ago. The administration will suggest that lawmakers make detailed rules prohibiting profiteering in the name of religion, he said.
Current law prohibits profits from religious activities, as well as contracts between religious monasteries and companies, according to a guideline issued in October 2012 by 10 administrations and ministries, including the religious affairs administration, the Ministry of Public Security and the State Administration of Tourism.
Some of the tourists and religious believers are lobbied – and sometimes even intimidated – as fake practitioners promote the sale of expensive incense to visitors at temples in scenic spots, the guideline says.
On Thursday, the religious affairs administration publicized 10 typical cases of illegal profits disguised as religion.
In one case, Xiuzhenguan, a Taoist temple in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, was found to have been contracted to a businessman, who hired fake Taoists to make profits through illegal activities, including fortune-telling and the sales of expensive incense and souvenirs.
The administration urged the local government to address the issue after a news report exposed problems in December 2012. The businessman who contracted the temple was punished.
Wang Lei, an administration official, said that some profit-driven government bodies have excessively exploited many religious venues and use the monasteries to pad the government’s coffers.
Officials should give up that idea, Wang said.