Through special groups, the United Front tightly monitors religious activities on campuses by Chinese and foreigners. Anyone caught engaged in religious activities is expelled or fired.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – Religion is under tight control in Chinese universities. Special bodies known as United Front leading groups closely monitor religious activities of students and faculty alike.
Over the years, their grip has grown tighter. Christmas celebrations (including parties) and prayer meetings have been banned. Those caught praying have been expelled.
Such action is informed by negative opinion towards religion in general and Christianity in particular, deemed a spiritual pollution from the West.
The war against religion on campuses is an attempt to plug the holes that have appeared in China’s academia, as students and faculty show a growing interest in Christianity (60 per cent in Beijing and Shanghai).
The aforementioned monitoring of religious activities also shows how far China has to go in terms of freedom of religion. A Chinese student who asked that his identity be protected describes for AsiaNews readers how control is exercised.
Chinese universities include Religious work leading groups (宗教 工作 领导 小组) to monitor religious activities on campuses.
Sometimes, such special bodies are incorporated in the United Front Leading Group. For example, the United Front Leading Group at Renmin University of China (RUC) also operates as a Religious work leading group under the university’s auspices.
The RUC’s United Front Leading Group-cum-religious work leading group has:
1. presidents, i.e. the First Party Secretary and the Dean;
2. vice presidents, i.e. Delegated Party Secretary, Deputy Party Secretary, Delegated Deputy Dean and the Deputy Rector;
3. secretary, i.e. the director of the United Front Department;
4. members, i.e. officials in charge of the Organisational Office of the Propaganda Department, the Disciplinary Committee, the Schools for research students, the Education Office, the Research Office, the Human Resources Office, the Student Activities Office, the Foreign Communications Office, the Bursary, and the Security Office.
All members have specific and coordinated tasks. Such a broad monitoring network means no doubt that all religious believers who study or teach in China are closely watched and are surrounded by informants who often act as friendly and helpful students or professors.
Foreign students and faculty are targeted and can be used for ulterior motives. They can for instance be given wrong information to muddle their perception of situations.