Tzu Chi sets up shop in atheist China

Indian Express, Aug 21, 2010

Suzhou, China -- A Taiwan Buddhist charity set up shop in China on Friday, a sign of the atheist Communist rulers growing but still limited religious tolerance and part of a drive to win the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese.

The Tzu Chi Foundation opened its China chapter in the form of a bookshop-cum-tea house in the historic eastern city of Suzhou in Jiangsu province, a popular investment choice for the Taiwanese companies which have pumped billions into the country.

Officials say Tzu Chi is the first overseas non-governmental organisation to receive the blessing of the Ministry of Civil Affairs to operate in China. Normally they have to register with the Commerce Ministry as businesses.

But it is barred from preaching and cannot raise funds from the ordinary Chinese without government approval on an ad hoc basis.

We will not make it a point to preach when we do charity work on the mainland, but if people ask me my religion, I will say I am Buddhist, foundation spokesman Rey-sheng Her said.