During the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), particularly the Destruction of Four Olds campaign, religious affairs of all types were persecuted and discouraged by the Communists with many religious buildings looted and destroyed. Since then, there have been efforts to repair, reconstruct and protect historical and cultural religious sites. The US department of state criticizes in its human rights report 2005 that not enough has been done to repair or restore damaged and destroyed sites.
The 1982 Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to believe in any religion."Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. 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 state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.
Members of the Communist Party are officially required to be atheists, but many party members privately violate this rule,
The government tries to maintain tight control over all religions, so the only legal Christian groups (Three-Self Patriotic Movement and Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association) are those under the Communist Party control. The members of the illegal, underground Catholic church true to the Pope are persecuted.
The "official Catholic" metropolitan bishop was elected in China in 2007 to replace the deceased Fu Tieshan instead of appointed by the Pope as is customary. According to Pope Benedict XVI, the Catholic Church in particular is viewed as a foreign power in a situation somewhat analogous to that in Post-Reformation England, and so the official church in China is state-controlled;
The government now claims the power to ensure that no new 'living Buddha' can be identified: the State Administration for Religious Affairs issued a 14-part regulation to limit the influence of the Dalai Lama. It declared that after 1 September 2007, "[no] living Buddha [may be reincarnated] without government approval, since Qing dynasty, when the live Buddha system was established.". The Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama is branded a fake by loyalists.Examples of the political controls exercised in 1998 are:
quotas on the number of monks to reduce the spiritual population
forced denunciation of the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader
unapproved monks' expulsion from monasteries
forced recitation of patriotic scripts supporting China
Restriction of religious study before age 18.
Monks celebrating the reception of the US Congressional Gold Medal by the Dalai Lama have been detained.