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China bans foreign students from conducting religious activities at campuses in Henan province

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)Students sing songs from Mao Zedong's "Little Red Book" during a ceremony at the Democracy Elementary and Middle School in Sitong town, Henan province, December 4, 2013.

Provincial authorities in Henan, China have announced new regulations forbidding foreign students from conducting religious activities at universities in the province.

On June 5, Henan province's departments of education, public security and foreign affairs announced a new set of regulations that are aimed at regulating the religious beliefs of international students.

According to the South China Morning Post, the new rules, which are set to take effect this month, prohibits any form of religious activities on campus, such as preaching or taking part in religious gatherings. While schools are required to respect the customs and religious beliefs of foreign students, they are not allowed to provide any venue for religious activities.

Additionally, the regulations require universities and colleges to teach international students about China's laws, institutions and traditional Chinese culture and customs.

International students majoring in philosophy and politics would be required to take compulsory political theories courses, but no further information was given about which systems would be taught.

The new regulations, however, do not apply to students from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Data from the Ministry of Education indicated that more than 442,000 international students came to China last year. Over 70,000 came from South Korea, followed by the U.S., Thailand, Pakistan and India.

International students who are not living in school dormitories are required to register their address with the police.

University political instructors have long been tasked with overseeing Chinese students' ideological teaching, but the previous regulations have made no mention of applying this aspect of the role for instructors overseeing foreign students.

China Aid, a non-profit organization that monitors religious freedom violations in the communist nation, contended that prohibiting students from practicing their religious beliefs on campus violates Article 36 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China.

"No State organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion," the Constitution states, according to the non-profit group.

Meanwhile, Henan's local branches of state-run Christian organizations announced last week that churches will not be allowed to organize youth camps this summer.

"The temperature is very high during the summer. To conform to the country's related legal policies on youth health, no summer camps that involve youth and students shall be organized by any church. Please stick to this notice if it differs from previous notices," reads a notice from the Henan Provincial Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee and the Henan Provincial China Christian Council.

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