09/29/2015, 00.00
CHINA
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Communist Party to tighten grip on NGOs and religions

The Party’s Organisation Department is “encouraging” civil society groups to recruit Communist Party members by providing tax breaks and financial incentives. This first phase is expected to be followed by a crackdown on any wayward organisation. The United Front tells party officials that they cannot have a religion.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - China’s Communist Party is calling on NGOs, trade unions and foundations to increase the presence of party members within their organisations, state media reported.

The Organisation Department of the party’s Central Committee said that the initiative is designed to strengthen party organs in such organisations, and is necessary to “guide them in the right political direction” through promoting and carrying out party policies, the Xinhua news agency reported yesterday.

NGOs, trade unions and foundations with more than three party members should establish a party branch, while neighbourhoods should also establish party branches and organise activities.

The party cells installed in these organisations should “mobilise and educate ordinary people to stand against negative influence and illegal activities”.

For now, the new guidelines do not include any sticks, only carrots: tax subsidies and additional financial assistance. However, for some experts, more repressive steps are likely to follow this initial, transitional phase.

For Zeng Feiyang, director of the Guangdong Panyu Migrant Worker Centre, in Guangzhou, his organisation has no intention of going along with such an initiative.

“We are a social service organisation,” Zeng told the South China Morning Post. “We do not wish to be – and will not be – politicised. Independence is very important for us so that we can provide a social service without [a] political agenda.”

The party’s crackdown will affect religions as well.  Party members are now officially banned from following a faith as part of rules adopted by the United Front Work Department, an organisation that oversees the country’s five official religions (Catholicism, Protestant Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Taoism). Under its new rules, Communist Party members cannot follow a religion.

"The new rule says it is essential for the Chinese Communist Party to unite all forces in society as China transforms itself, with reforms in almost every area," Xinhua reported last week.

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