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International Religious Freedom Report 2002

BG0211E | Date: 2002-10-08

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
October 7, 2002


Why The Reports Are Prepared

This report is submitted to the Congress by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. The law provides that the Secretary of State, with the assistance of the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, shall transmit to Congress "an Annual Report on International Religious Freedom supplementing the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving international religious freedom." This Annual Report includes 195 reports on countries worldwide.

How The Reports Are Prepared

In August 1993, the Secretary of State moved to strengthen the human rights efforts of our embassies. All sections in each embassy were asked to contribute information and to corroborate reports of human rights violations, and new efforts were made to link mission programming to the advancement of human rights and democracy. In 1994 the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs was reorganized and renamed as the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, reflecting both a broader sweep and a more focused approach to the interlocking issues of human rights, worker rights, and democracy. In 1998 the Secretary of State established the Office of International Religious Freedom. In May 2002, John V. Hanford, III was sworn in as the second Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.

The 2002 Report covers the period from July 1, 2001, to June 30, 2002, and reflects a year of dedicated effort by hundreds of State Department, Foreign Service, and other U.S. Government employees. Our embassies, which prepared the initial drafts of the reports, gathered information throughout this period from a variety of sources, including government and religious officials, nongovernmental organizations, journalists, human rights monitors, religious groups, and academics. This information-gathering can be hazardous, and U.S. Foreign Service Officers regularly go to great lengths, under trying and sometimes dangerous conditions, to investigate reports of human rights abuse, monitor elections, and come to the aid of individuals at risk because of their religious beliefs.

After the embassies completed their drafts, the texts were sent to Washington for careful review by the Office of Country Reports and Asylum Affairs in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, working closely with other State Department Offices and the Office of the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, who has ultimate responsibility for the Report on behalf of the Secretary of State. As they worked to corroborate, analyze, and edit the reports, the Department officers drew on their own sources of information. These included reports provided by U.S. and other human rights groups, foreign government officials, representatives from the United Nations and other international and regional organizations and institutions, and experts from academia and the media. Officers also consulted with experts on issues of religious discrimination and persecution, religious leaders from all faiths, and experts on legal matters. The guiding principle was to ensure that all relevant information was assessed as objectively, thoroughly, and fairly as possible.

The Report will be used as a resource for shaping policy, conducting diplomacy, and making assistance, training, and other resource allocations. As mandated by the IRFA, it also will be used as a basis for decisions on determining countries that have engaged in or tolerated "particularly severe violations" of religious freedom. Countries involved in these and other violations according to the IRFA are not identified as such in this report, but have been and will be engaged independently by the U.S. Government. The Report also will serve as a basis for the U.S. Government's cooperation with private groups to promote the observance of the internationally recognized right to religious freedom.

A Word On Usage

In many cases, the International Religious Freedom Report states that a country "generally respects" the right of religious freedom. The phrase "generally respects" is used because the protection and promotion of human rights is a dynamic endeavor; it cannot accurately be stated that any Government fully respects these rights, without qualification, in even the best of circumstances. Accordingly, "generally respects" is the standard phrase used to describe all countries that attempt to protect religious freedom in the fullest sense. "Generally respects" is thus the highest level of respect for religious freedom assigned by this report.


The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the authorities generally respect this right in practice.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and the authorities’ policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

The American Institute in Taiwan discusses religious freedom issues with the authorities in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

Taiwan is a group of islands located in the Western Pacific Ocean off the east coast of mainland China, with a total area of approximately 13,800 square miles and a population of approximately 23 million. While the authorities do not maintain separate official statistics on religious affiliation, registration statistics suggest that of the total population, approximately 5,486,000 (23.9 percent) are Buddhist; 4,546,000 (19.8 percent) are Taoist; 887,000 (3.9 percent) follow I Kuan Tao; 605,000 (2.6 percent) are Protestant; 298,000 (1.3 percent) are Roman Catholic; 260,000 (1.1 percent) follow Tien Ti Chiao (Heaven Emperor Religion); 200,000 (0.9 percent) follow Tien Te Chiao (Heaven Virtue Religion); 187,000 (0.8 percent) follow Li-ism; 150,000 (0.7 percent) follow Hsuan Yuan Chiao (Yellow Emperor Religion); 100,000 (0.4 percent) follow Maitraya Great Tao; 96,000 (0.4 percent) follow the Chinese Holy Religion; 53,000 (0.2 percent) are Sunni Muslim; 31,500 (0.1 percent) follow Hai Tzu Tao (Innocent Child Religion); and 30,000 (0.1 percent) follow Tien Li Chiao (Heaven Reason Religion). In addition approximately 16,000 persons are adherents of the Baha’i Faith; 12,500 follow Confucianism; 3,200 follow the Maitraya Emperor Religion; 1,000 follow Ta I Chiao (Great Changes Religion); and 1,000 are adherents of the Mahikari Religion. The non-Catholic Christian denominations include: Presbyterians, True Jesus, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), Baptists, Lutherans, Seventh-Day Adventists, Episcopalians, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. There also are a small number of adherents of Judaism. More than 70 percent of the indigenous population (Aborigines) are Christian. The majority of religious adherents either are Buddhist or Taoist, but a large percentage consider themselves both Buddhist and Taoist. Approximately 50 percent of the population regularly participate in some form of organized religious practice. Almost 14 percent of the population are believed to be atheist.

In addition to practicing another religion, many persons also follow a collection of beliefs that are deeply ingrained in Chinese culture, and that can be referred to as "traditional Chinese folk religion." These beliefs include, but are not limited to, shamanism, ancestor worship, magic, ghosts and other spirits, and aspects of animism. Such folk religion may overlap with an individual's belief in Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, or other traditional Chinese religions. There also may be an overlap between practitioners of such religions as Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, and practitioners of Falun Gong, whose numbers have grown rapidly in recent years to as many as 100,000. Observers have estimated that as much as 80 percent of the population believes in some form of traditional folk religion.

Religious beliefs cross political and geographical lines. Members of the political leadership practice various faiths. Officials from across the political spectrum were among the thousands of persons who visited an exhibition of a sacred Buddhist relic on loan from the Chinese Buddhist Association in Beijing, which was on tour in Taiwan from February to March 2002 under the auspices of a Buddhist temple in Foguangshan, Kaohsiung County. However, some pro-independence elements criticized the loan of the relic by the Beijing association as politically motivated.

Foreign missionary groups are active in Taiwan, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the authorities generally respect this right in practice. The authorities at all levels strive to protect this right in full, and do not tolerate its abuse, either by the authorities or private actors. There is no state religion.

Although registration is not mandatory, 19 religious organizations have registered with the Ministry of the Interior. Religious organizations may register with the central authorities through their island-wide associations under the Temple Management Law, the Civic Organizations Law, or the chapter of the Civil Code that governs foundations and associations. While individual places of worship may register with local authorities, many choose not to register, and operate as the personal property of their leaders. Registered organizations operate on a tax-free basis and are required to make annual reports of their financial operations. In the past, concern over abuse of tax-free privileges or other financial misdeeds occasionally prompted the authorities to deny registration to new religions whose doctrines were not clear; however, there were no reports that the authorities sought to deny registration to new religions during the period covered by this report.

Religious instruction is not permitted at the elementary, middle, or high school levels in public or private schools that have been accredited by the Ministry of Education. Religious organizations are permitted to operate schools, but religious instruction is not permitted in those schools if they have been accredited by the Ministry of Education. If the schools are not accredited formally by the Ministry of Education, they may provide religious instruction. High schools may provide general courses in religious studies, and universities and research institutions have religious studies departments. Religious organizations operate theological seminaries.

Foreign missionary groups operate freely.

The Ministry of the Interior promotes interfaith understanding among religious groups by sponsoring symposiums, or helping to defray the expenses of privately sponsored symposiums on religious issues.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The authorities’ policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

Forced Religious Conversion

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

Section III. Societal Attitudes

Relations among the various religious communities are generally amicable. The Taiwan Council for Religion and Peace, the China Religious Believers Association, and the Taiwan Religious Association are private organizations that promote greater understanding and tolerance among adherents of different religions. These associations and various religious groups occasionally sponsor symposiums to promote mutual understanding.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The American Institute in Taiwan discusses religious freedom issues with the authorities in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights. The American Institute is in frequent contact with representatives of human rights organizations and occasionally meets with leaders of various religious communities.

The full text of this report is available at: