Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report
July 30, 2012



Executive SummaryShare

The Basic Law of the Macau Special Administrative Region (Macau SAR) and other laws and policies protect religious freedom and, in practice, the government generally respected religious freedom. The government did not demonstrate a trend toward either improvement or deterioration in respect for and protection of the right to religious freedom.

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

The consulate general in Hong Kong discussed religious freedom with the government, and officers from the consulate general met with leaders of religious groups and spiritual organizations in the region.

Section I. Religious DemographyShare

According to the Government Information Bureau, nearly 80 percent of the population practices Buddhism. There are approximately 30,000 Roman Catholics (of whom over half are foreign domestic workers and expatriates residing in Macau) and more than 5,000 Protestants. Smaller religious groups include Baha’is (estimated at 2,500 persons); Muslims (estimated at 400 persons); and a small number of Falun Gong practitioners.

There are approximately 40 Buddhist temples, as well as dozens of village temples and houses dedicated to Buddhist deities; 30 Taoist temples; three Catholic cathedrals, 18 Catholic churches and 56 Catholic chapels within diocesan buildings; approximately 76 Protestant churches; four Baha’i centers; and one mosque.

Many Protestant denominations are represented, including Baptist, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Pentecostal churches. There are also evangelical denominations and independent local churches.

An estimated 76 Protestant churches with 4,000 members conduct services in Chinese; approximately 5,000 worshippers attend every Sunday. An estimated 500 Protestants attend services conducted in foreign languages.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious FreedomShare

Legal/Policy Framework

The Basic Law and other laws and policies protect religious freedom.

Article 34 of the Basic Law states, “Macau residents shall have freedom of religious belief, and freedom to preach and to conduct and participate in religious activities in public.” Article 128 of the Basic Law stipulates “the government, consistent with the principle of religious freedom, shall not interfere in the internal affairs of religious organizations or in the efforts of religious organizations and their believers to maintain and develop relations with their counterparts outside Macau or restrict religious activities which do not contravene the laws of the Special Administrative Region.”

Under the Basic Law, the government of the Macau SAR (not the Government of the People’s Republic of China--PRC) controls religious practices in the region. Religious organizations coordinate their relations with co-religionists in the PRC through the Central Government Liaison Office (CGLO). Religious communities report that the CGLO supported these activities and exchanges. The CGLO also maintains dialogue with religious organizations in the SAR.

The 1998 Freedom of Religion and Worship Law (Freedom of Religion Law), which remained in effect after the 1999 transfer of sovereignty to the PRC, provides for freedom of religion, including privacy of religious belief, freedom of religious assembly, freedom to hold religious processions, and freedom of religious education.

The Freedom of Religion Law allows religious organizations to register directly with the Identification Bureau, which is required under the law to receive and process registrations. Applicants need to supply their name, identification card number, contact information, organization name, and a copy of the group’s charter to register. Religious entities can apply to media organizations and companies to use mass media (television, radio, etc.) to preach, and such applications generally are approved. Registration is not required to conduct religious activities, and it does not automatically confer tax-exempt status or other advantages.

The Freedom of Religion Law also stipulates that religious groups may develop and maintain relations with religious groups abroad. The Catholic Church, which is in communion with the Vatican, recognizes Pope Benedict XVI as the head of the church. In 2005 the Holy See appointed the current bishop for the diocese.

The government provides financial support for the establishment of schools, childcare centers, clinics, homes for the elderly, rehabilitation centers, and vocational training centers run by religious organizations. Beginning in September 2007 the Macau Inter-University Institute (now renamed the University of Saint Joseph), which is affiliated with the Catholic University in Portugal, has offered a Christian studies course that includes Catholic seminary students from the Mainland.

The government observes Christmas, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and Buddha’s Birthday as public holidays.

Government Practices

There were no reports of abuses of religious freedom.

The government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the year.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious FreedomShare

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Relations among the various religious communities were good, and citizens generally were tolerant of the religious views and practices of others. Many religious groups, including Catholics, Buddhists, Protestants, and Baha’is, provided extensive social services to communities in Macau. Falun Gong members regularly set up informational sites in public venues.

Public ceremonies and dedications often included prayers by both Christian and Buddhist groups.

Section IV. U.S. Government PolicyShare

The consulate general in Hong Kong discussed religious freedom with the government, and officers from the consulate general met with leaders of religious groups and spiritual organizations in the region.