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China Issues New Religions Rights Rules  - 2004-12-19

China has issued a new set of rules that state-media said would better protect religious freedoms in the officially atheist country.

The official Xinhua news agency said Sunday that the Religious Affairs Provisions explicitly specify the rights of religious groups, religious sites, and people. They also offer guidance on religious affairs involving state and public interests.

Xinhua called the rules a significant step forward in the protection of Chinese citizens' religious freedom.

The U.S. State Department's Annual Report on Religious Freedom last year rebuked China for poor respect for religious freedom and interference and harassment of people who do not belong to state churches.

China requires people to worship in state-sanctioned churches and cracks down on groups outside of the government's control.

Some information for this story provided by AFP and Reuters.