The Macau Basic Law states residents have freedom of religious belief and the freedom to publicly preach and conduct and participate in religious activities. These rights may be limited in extreme situations for national security reasons. The Basic Law further stipulates that the government shall not interfere in the internal affairs of religious groups or in their relations with their counterparts outside Macau. It bars the government from restricting religious activities that do not contravene the laws of the Macau SAR.
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 engages in dialogue with religious groups in the SAR.
The law states the Macau SAR government does not recognize a state religion and stipulates all religious denominations are equal before the law. The law further provides for freedom of religion, including privacy of religious belief, freedom of religious assembly, freedom to hold religious processions, and freedom of religious education.
Religious groups are not required to register in order to conduct religious activities, but registration enables them to benefit from their legal status. Religious groups register with the Identification Bureau providing their names, identification card numbers, contact information, as well as the group’s name and a copy of the group’s charter to register. To receive tax-exempt status or other advantages, religious groups register as charities with the Identification Bureau by submitting the same information and documents as are required to register. Several religious groups reported they had tax exemptions for land use and business operations, enabling them to afford to fund charity work and operate schools.
The law guarantees religious organizations may run seminaries and schools, hospitals, and welfare institutions and provide other social services.
Schools run by religious organizations may provide religious education under the law. The Catholic Diocese of Macau runs most educational institutions; only 10 of 77 are public schools, according to government statistics. Within these 10 schools, several require coursework on ethics and/or a world religions course, although no religious education is required in public schools.
The law guarantees religious organizations the right to acquire, use, dispose of, and inherit property.
By law, religious groups may develop and maintain relations with religious groups abroad. The Catholic Church in Macau, in communion with the Holy See, recognizes the pope as its head. The Vatican appoints the bishop for the diocese.