By Zhang Zhipeng (张志鹏), China Ethnic News (中国民族报), June 18, 2013
This article argues that before religious groups can engage in charity and philanthropic activities which will benefit Chinese society, the state must first enable these groups to legally register as social organizations. Due to the difficulty registering and the requirement of obtaining approval from both the Religion Management Bureau and the Civil Affairs Bureau, despite possessing the capacity and interest, many religious groups are currently unable to organize charity activities. For example, in the latest Sichuan earthquake, a number of religious groups were unable to participate in the relief efforts to the extent that they would have liked. According to Canadian scholar An Derui, while some groups have dabbled in activities such as medical treatment and education, the lack of a proper legal identity and its accompanying costs have been quite restrictive. For instance, the majority of institutions caring for abandoned children are illegal according to current regulations, which may affect their effective management. While the government is presently reforming the social organization registration system to expedite and ameliorate the registration process, these reforms have not been extended to religious organizations. These groups possess significant resources, and the potential to obtain even more funding through fundraising activities, and thus the current registration policies are inhibiting the development of the social service and charity sector in accordance with the development of the market.