The Macau 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.” The Basic Law further stipulates, “the government, consistent with the principle of religious freedom, shall not interfere in the internal affairs of religious groups or in the efforts of religious groups 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.”
These rights may be limited for national security reasons in extreme situations.
Under the Basic Law, the government of the Macau SAR, rather than the central government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is charged with safeguarding religious freedom in the SAR. Religious groups coordinate their relations with coreligionists in the PRC through the Central Government Liaison Office (CGLO). The CGLO also maintains dialogue with religious groups in the SAR.
The Basic Law’s provisions are further delineated in a law that 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 law further specifically guarantees that religious organizations may run seminaries and other schools, hospitals, and welfare institutions and provide other social services. Schools run by religious organizations may provide religious education. The law also guarantees religious organizations the right to acquire, use, dispose of, and inherit property.
The law allows religious groups to register directly with the Identification Bureau. Applicants must supply name, identification card number, contact information, group name, and a copy of the group’s charter to register. Registration is not required to conduct religious activities, and it does not automatically confer tax-exempt status or other advantages.
The law also stipulates that religious groups may develop and maintain relations with religious groups abroad. The local Catholic Church, which is in communion with the Vatican, recognizes the pope as its head. The Vatican appoints the bishop for the diocese.