10/01/2013, 00.00
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Xi Jinping calls on religions to help fight corruption

by Bernardo Cervellera
Unbridled economic development and materialism has undermined the moral standards of Chinese society, especially in the Communist Party . The president and secretary general plan on giving more freedom to Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism to restore morality to the tired Chinese society. But Prof. Liu Peng believes it beneficial to launch a real law for the freedom of all religions , including Christianity and Islam.

Rome (AsiaNews) - In one of my first trips to China over 20 years ago , an old woman who used to clean a church in Guangdong, called for greater religious freedom. "Why does the government not give more freedom to our faith ? After all, what does the Christian faith advise? 'Honor your father and your mother, do not kill , do not steal ... Are these not good things for society ? "

The poor old woman was grieved because several unofficial bishops had been arrested, but also because the corruption of the members of the Party and the Patriotic Association were increasingly evident. And she stressed the commandment of " thou shalt not steal " right in front of a government official , famous for receiving bribes.

Several decades after that episode , corruption in the Party and the government has become a real disease . According to the Supreme Court , which each year publishes a report of its work , from 2008 to 2012 at least 143 thousand government officials were convicted of corruption , with an average of 78 a day!

Corruption has become so debilitating that every Party president and secretary  has appealed for a conversion to honesty , warning that if there is no change, the Party will self destruct . The same Xi Jinping , last November , on becoming general secretary , shouted that " the worst corruption will only result in the end of the Party and state ! We have to be vigilant!".

At present Xi has launched yet another campaign of "zero tolerance" against members of the party that stand apart "from the masses" and slip into illegality (along with lust and consumerism ) re-launching Mao era sessions of self-criticism sessions.

The trial of Bo Xilai, former party secretary in Chongqing, or those in preparation against Zhou Yongkang , a former security minister , and Jiang Jiemin , former president of China National Petroleum Corporation , appear at first exemplary : no one escapes the law, great or small , "tigers " or " flies " .

Lately, according to Reuters, to heal China of corruption, Xi Jinping appears to be seeking help from religions. Convinced that immorality has spread because of a too hasty and material development without spiritual references , he has reportedly confided that need to be " more tolerant" of traditional religions. In this way he hopes that "the cultural traditions of China - Confucianism , Buddhism, Taoism - will help fill the void that has allowed corruption to emerge ."

Thus far it is only a rumor and it is not exactly clear what "more tolerance" is. All official religions (Buddhism , Taoism, Islam , Protestant, Catholic ) are subjected to government controls on gathering places , personnel designated to control the activities of the faithful. Greater tolerance may perhaps lessen the controls, or allow more freedom in exchange for a ( spiritual ? ) hunt against corruption.

There are two main objections to Xi Jinping considerations however. The first is that for a long time the Party has significantly subsidized Confucian and Buddhist activities, but has not seen any improvement in corruption levels.

In 2002, Beijing allocated as many as 10 billion U.S. dollars to finance the revival of the ancient Chinese sage. But there appears to have been few beneficial effects, except the global spread of the Chinese language and culture. The same can be said with the great support given to Buddhism (excluding Tibet ) .

In addition, there is a suspicion that these "traditional" religions are pampered mainly because they instilled a total obedience to authority and to the Party in their faithful, or project their followers towards a happiness beyond history. The activist Hu Jia , also a Buddhist , said in this regard: " The Buddhists accept their fate and their situation they blame evil deeds done in a previous life ." In this way there is no need to accuse the Party for the injustices, crashes , pollution, or foreclosures land, the imbalance between rich and poor .

Even according to the government, Buddhism is to be preferred to Christianity and Islam because "it heals social divisions better."

The second objection is that the emphasis on "traditional religions" makes no discrimination on the faithful : they do not understand why Buddhism, which entered China from India only a few centuries before Christianity and Islam, should be considered " traditional " compared to the others.

Either way, the link that the Party leader makes between morality and religion is to be appreciated, in the midst of spiritual emptiness and corruption, lack of faith and social disintegration.

Last year AsiaNews published a series of articles by Prof. Liu Peng, of the Academy of Sciences in Beijing on the crisis of Marxism in China and the need to restore an ideal to the Chinese through the religious faiths (see : 25/07/2012 The Achilles' Heel of China's Rise: Belief, 31/07/2012 Liu Peng: Chinese have "lost faith" in Party ideals; 06/09/2012 After the "failed religions" of Mao and Deng, China seeks God; 19/09/2012 The Chinese Communist Party must guarantee religious freedom to save itself) .

Liu Peng believes that the state should not control religions , but let them penetrate the Chinese society to restore consistency , morality , cohesion, ideals within and beyond history .

For this to happen China needs to adopt a law on religions . From the time of Mao right up to today faiths in China are subjected to regulations that are translated , applied, changed, manipulated according to the use and abuse of the leaders. There is no law that protects religions (or prohibits them) . Prof. Liu Peng, who is chairman of the Pushi Institute for Social Sciences in Beijing, at a seminar held last June reiterated his argument that China needs to adopt a law on religion (not a regulation). According to the scholar, this would solve the problems that the state has with other religions through the law and allows the state to take advantage benevolent influence of religion on society.

This would be beneficial not only in fighting corruption, but also in enhancing social harmony and raising ideals . Perhaps it is time for Xi Jinping to listen to the warning of old woman from Guangdong .


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