Regardless of the fact that China’s constitution allows the practice of religion, Communist Party of China, the ruling party, bans its members from having any religious beliefs. The head of China’s top religious affairs regulator said that party members should not practice religion and those who have religious beliefs should be persuaded to give them up.
"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.
The China authorities’ move is irresistibly reminiscent of the term ‘thought crime’ which is an Orwellian neologism used to describe an illegal thought. The term was popularized in the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, wherein ‘thought crime’ is the criminal act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question Ingsoc, the ruling party. In the book, the government attempts to control not only the speech and actions, but also the thoughts of its subjects.
Wang added: "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." “Religions should be sinicized… 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.”
"It is important that Wang constantly reminds Party members not to have religious beliefs. Some people who claim to be scholars support religions us 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 on Tuesday.
According to Su Wei, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Chongqing Committee, guiding religions to suit to China's development is a core policy to solve China's religious problems. The moves evolve with traditional Chinese values over years and meet the demand of socialist development.
The problem with the bans is that they have a counter-effect and further accelerate what is prohibited. Banning religion empowers religious people and makes them gather in secret. Such a ban is going to be characterized as persecution among believers outside the country. The bottom line is that imposing bans on anything (in this case religion) have never been successful in the long term.
Photo Credits: Synglobe