China’s top religious affairs regulator said that Party members should not ‘seek value and faith in religion’, and that those who have religious beliefs should be persuaded to give them up, or met with punishment.
The Chinese Communist Party is officially atheist, but China’s constitution explicitly allows “freedom of religious belief”.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) is the founding and ruling political party of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The CPC is the sole governing party of China, although it coexists alongside eight other legal parties that make up the United Front; these parties, however, hold no real power or independence from the CPC. It was founded in 1921, chiefly by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao.
Proclaiming themselves officially “atheist”, the party however allows two exceptions: Buddhism and Taoism. As “Asian religions,” the party is able to “harness China’s religious and cultural traditions to shore up (the party’s) legitimacy,” says Freedom House, and at the same time use them to “help contain” the spread of Christianity and Islam. The latter two religions are viewed as “so-called Western values” by the party, according to Freedom House.
Religious suppression has intensified in recent years under the rule of president Xi Jinping—alongside a broader crackdown on civil society—according to a report by Freedom House released yesterday on February 28 this year.
“Party members should not have religious beliefs, which is a red line for all members. Party members should be firm Marxist atheists, obey Party rules and stick to the Party’s faith. They are not allowed to seek value and belief in religion,” 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.
Officials who have religious faith should be persuaded to give it up, and those who resist would be punished by the Party organization, Wang wrote.
He added that Party members are also forbidden from supporting or getting involved in religious affairs in the name of developing the economy or diversifying culture.
“It is important that Wang constantly reminds Party members not to have religious beliefs. Some people who claim to be scholars support religious beliefs in the Party, which has undermined the Party’s values based on dialectical materialism,” Zhu Weiqun, chairman of the Ethnic and Religious Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, told a Chinese State Media, Global Times, on Tuesday.
Stressing the need for a firm political direction in managing religious affairs, Wang said “We should guide religious groups and individuals with socialist core values and excellent traditional Chinese culture and support religious groups to dig into their doctrines to find parts that are beneficial to social harmony and development.”
“Some foreign forces have used religion to infiltrate China, and extremism and illegal religious activities are spreading in some places, which have threatened national security and social stability,” Wang added.
Some foreign forces have used religions, including Christianity and Islam, two “non-local religions”, to deliberately spread their political views in China, Su said, adding that some religious doctrines shall be adjusted to match Chinese ethics and customs.
Su also noted that the regulation banning Party members from having religious beliefs would be permanent, but may involve more work in Northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Gansu Province as well as Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.