The State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), was a functioning department under the State Council which oversees religious affairs and issues for the People's Republic of China. Originally created in 1951 as the Religious Affairs Bureau, SARA was closely connected with the United Front Work Department and charged with overseeing the operations of China's five officially sanctioned religious organizations:
SARA was dissolved in 2018, placing all religious affairs directly under the United Front Work Department.
The State Administration for Religious Affairs was established to exercise control over religious appointments, the selection of clergy, and the interpretation of religious doctrine. SARA was also meant to ensure that the registered religious organizations support and carry out the policy priorities of the Communist Party of China.
Ye Xiaowen directed the SARA from 1995 to 2009. During his tenure, he issued the State Religious Affairs Bureau Order No. 5, which furthered state control over reincarnations in Tibetan Buddhism, and attempted to suppress underground Catholics loyal to Rome (which he considered "colonial") and not to the government-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. After Ye was promoted to the Secretary of the CPC Committee at the Central Institute of Socialism, the former Deputy Director Wang Zuoan was promoted to Director. Under the Xi Jinping administration, it was announced in 2018 that SARA was being dissolved and its functions would be collapsed into the United Front Work Department.
[...] Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) wrote in an article released in the Qiushi Journal on Saturday, the flagship magazine of the CPC Central Committee.