Beijing (AsiaNews) – In an opinion piece published last weekend, the newsletter of the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) warned that "a small number of party members have forsaken the party's world view of dialectical materialism and have turned to religion.”
This “is now attracting serious concern, to the extent that it now falls within the purview of disciplinary work”. In fact, the newsletter noted that "Marx himself stated baldly that communism, in essence, begins with atheism”. Thus, “There can be no doubt about the fact that the founding ideological principle that Communist Party members cannot be religious believers”.
This view, the paper said, “has been upheld by our party from the outset.” Hence, whilst "Chinese citizens have the freedom of religious belief, [. . .] Communist Party members aren't the same as regular citizens; they are fighters in the vanguard for a communist consciousness".
This is an important issue since the Communist Party of China (CPC) has 86.7 million members, second only to the 88 million claimed by India's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Chinese government recognises five religions: Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Taoism and Islam.
Judaism is not recognised, and worship in non-recognised temples, churches, or mosques is against the law.
The Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church is a limbo. With Russia and China boosting their relations, Chinese authorities have recently allowed the ordination of Orthodox priests on its territory.
Religiously inclined Communist party officials have existed for years, despite attempts by the authorities to hide this fact.
Some estimate that up to 10 per cent of members of the CPC attend churches and temples, often with greater fervour than other believers.
According to Rev Liu Fenggang, a Beijing-based Protestant clergyman, there are believers even in the highest echelons of party leadership.
"We frequently come across this issue in our missionary work," Liu told Radio Free Asia. "For many years now, a lot of Chinese officials and Communist Party members and their families have been turning to Jesus."
For the clergyman, party leaders "have made many political mistakes,” and they continue. “Our churches are still the targets of atheist persecution, for example, the forced demolition of crosses,” he explained.
The newsletter article comes just a few days after the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and the United Front, an organisation that includes all of the country’s small but legally permitted political parties, the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce as well as associations representing various ethnic groups and religions.
In his speech to the United Front, the Chinese president said that religions in China must be "Chinese" and free from any "foreign influence".
He also insisted that they must integrate into China’s "socialist society" and must serve the nation’s development under CPC leadership.