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U.S. Department of State
Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999

Released by the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Washington, DC, September 9, 1999


Section I. Freedom of Religion

Currently, Portuguese law as extended to Macau provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. On July 7, 1998, Macau's Legislative Assembly passed the Religious Freedom Ordinance. The Ordinance was approved by the Sino-Portuguese Joint Liaison Group and is to continue in effect beyond December 20, 1999, when Macau reverts from Portuguese to Chinese administration. The Ordinance provides for freedom of religion, privacy of religious belief, freedom of religious assembly, freedom to hold religious processions, and freedom of religious education. The Basic Law (which serves, in effect, as a constitution and which is to take effect from December 20, 1999) also provides for religious freedom.

The Religious Freedom Ordinance requires the registration of religious organizations. This is handled by the enclave's Identification Services Office. There have been no reports of discrimination in the registration process. Religious bodies can apply to use electronic media to preach. The Ordinance also stipulates that religious groups may maintain and develop relations with religious groups abroad.

According to census figures, of the more than 355,000 persons surveyed (the total population is 450,000), 60.9 percent have no religious affiliation, 16.8 percent are Buddhist, 6.7 percent are Roman Catholic, 1.7 percent are Protestant, and 13.9 percent are "other" (a combination of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian). The enclave's Catholics recognize the Pope as the head of the church.

Missionaries are free to conduct missionary activities and are active in the enclave. More than 30,000 children are enrolled in Catholic schools, and a large number of influential non-Christians have had Christian educations.

A wide range of faiths are represented in the Government, the judiciary, and the civil service.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered during this report.

There were no reports of religious detainees or prisoners.

There were no reports of the forced religious conversion of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section II. Societal Attitudes

Relations between the various religious communities are amicable. Citizens are generally very tolerant of others' religious views and practices.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

Officers from the Consulate General in Hong Kong meet regularly with religious leaders. In February 1998, the Consulate General hosted a delegation of U.S. religious leaders, which made a 3-week visit to China at the invitation of Chinese President Jiang Zemin. Representatives of Macau's major religious and human rights groups were included in meetings with the delegation.

[End of Document]

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Revised last: 10-09-1999