02/10/2016, 13.37
CHINA
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Even in retirement, Communists “cannot take part in religious activities”

The Communist Party’s Organisation Department, which controls the 88 million party personnel, issued new rules banning retired party members from engaging in religious activities. Politburo member Yu Zhengsheng called for “more effort in building a religious ideology with Chinese characteristics”.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Retired Communist Party members cannot believe in a religion or engage in religious activities, this according to new regulations issued by the Organisation Department, the powerful internal body that controls staffing in the 88-million member Communist Party.

“There are clear rules that retired cadres and party members cannot believe in religion, cannot take part in religious activities, and must resolutely fight against cults," Chinese media quoted an official as saying.

Retired officials should "maintain a high degree of consistency, in thought, in political views and in action, with the central party committee which is headed by Xi Jinping", the official added.

The Chinese government is atheist because its bodies and offices are occupied by Communist Party officials. The party’s founding documents have no place for religion.

However, China’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion and recognises five official religions (Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Taoism and Buddhism).

Although serving Communist Party members are not expected to be religious, retired members had so far been left in a legal limbo. This has been changing since President Xi Jinping came to power, as he seeks to boost state control of religion.

Under Xi’s predecessors Jiang Zemin (1993-2003) and Hu Jintao (2003-2013), the Communist Party was formally against religion, but members could exercise some freedom in private. Some polls suggested that up to 80 per cent of party members held some religious views.

However, haunted by the collapse of the Soviet Union, Xi has reiterated that religion is incompatible with communism.

Indeed, ”Communist Party members cannot follow any religion – this is the important ideological and organisational principle which has been upheld since the founding of the party. There is no doubt about it,” wrote Zhu, chairman of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee of the Chinese Peoples’ Political Consultative Conference, in an article published on 14 November 2014 in the Global Times.

Now with the new rules, even retirement does not release party members from their duty towards the Party. Failure to uphold them could lead to suspension and eventually loss of pension benefits.

"(The circular) clearly stated that retired cadres cannot believe in religion, cannot participate in religious activities and must resolutely fight against cults," Xinhua reported.

For some analysts, this latest version of Mao’s policy of caring for people from the cradle to the grave, which means that the Party oppresses people for the same length of time.

For his part, Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), recently met with the country’s religious leaders.

As it reported the meeting, Xinhua noted that Yu "called on religious groups in China to continue adding Chinese characteristics, dig into positive elements in their religions and make more effort in building a religious ideology with Chinese characteristics."

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