China’s religious affairs ministry has lashed out at the rampant commercialization of sacred places and temples in the country, including the practice of employing “fake monks” and fortune-tellers.
In a statement posted online, the State Administration for Religious Affairs, which oversees the country’s religious organizations, also criticized plans by some Buddhist and Taoist temples to raise funds by listing on the stock market.
“Temples shall not in any way engage in ‘stock’ or ‘joint venture’ activities,” the administration said in the statement dated Oct. 22.
Policies by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) suppressing religion have been relaxed since the 1970s, leading to a rapid increase in pilgrimages and visits to temples. Religious organizations are still required to register with the government.
The State Administration for Religious Affairs picked out for particular criticism those “using the excuse of promoting traditional culture” to profit from devotees.
“There have been reports of non-religious sites employing fake monks … illegally setting up donation boxes to take religious donations, even threatening religious believers and tourists to cheat them out of money,” the statement said.
“These phenomena seriously violate the party’s policies towards religion, and national laws,” it added, listing other abuses, including pressuring tourists to buy expensive incense and illegal fortune-telling.
The Famen temple in northwest China is set to list on Hong Kong’s stock exchange next year, according to the Global Times daily, while Mount Putuo, a sacred Buddhist mountain, has announced plans to go public within three years.
Two fake monks wearing orange Buddhist robes were detained in Beijing in April after they were caught drinking alcohol on the city’s subway and checked into a luxury hotel with two women, local reports said at the time.