The State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) has banned local authorities from farming out Buddhist and Taoist temples to enterprises and individuals, or listing religious sites in the stock market, in the wake of a public backlash against the commercialization of such sites.
In a joint statement published on its website Monday, the SARA and nine other government departments said that some local governments, enterprises and individuals had built new religious sites for profit, hired fake monks to hold illegal religious activities and collect endowments, and had also tricked or forced visitors into giving them money.
"These practices violated China's religious policies and regulations, disturbed the order of religious activities and damaged the image of religious circles as well as believers' feelings," it said.
A local government in Henan Province tried to push the Shaolin Temple, a famous Buddhist site, to be listed on the stock market at the end of 2009. The plan was aborted due to pressure from religious authorities, according to Xinhua.
Tickets for the Shaolin Temple are priced at 100 yuan ($16), and the site earns more than 130 million yuan ($20.8 million) a year, according to media reports.
Local governments are banned from participating in or supporting any equity investment or joint investment conducted by enterprises or individuals at religious sites, the SARA statement said Monday.
The SARA did not respond to Global Times' inquiries about the new policy.
"Although it's questionable whether such a document can stop the trend of religious sites going public, moves like this still make perfect sense," Cheng Gongrang, a professor at Nanjing University who has been following the issue, told the Global Times.
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