‘We must resist foreign infiltration through religion’, warns China’s president as the country warns of Islamist extremists spreading their ideology
President Xi Jinping has warned that China must be on guard against foreign infiltration through religion and must stop ‘extremists’ spreading their ideology.
Mr Xi said China must also ‘manage the internet’ to promote the Communist Party’s religious theories and policies.
‘We must resolutely resist overseas infiltration through religious means and guard against ideological infringement by extremists,’ Mr Xi told a two-day national working conference on religion.
The ruling Communist Party says it protects freedom of religion, but it keeps a tight rein on religious activities and allows only officially recognised religious institutions to operate.
President Xi said Communist Party members must adhere to Marxist principles and remain ‘staunchly atheist’.
The Falun Gong sect has been banned in 1999 and thousands of its members are believed to be in prison.
Last year Falun Gong supporters claimed China harvested livers, kidneys, corneas and even hearts from some of the prisoners and sold them to wealthy transplant tourists.
But Beijing believes the biggest danger now is from Islamists, especially in the Xinjiang region in the far west, where hundreds of people have been killed over the past few years in violence between the indigenous Muslim Uighur community and Han Chinese settlers.
Uighurs have been predominantly Muslim since the 16th century.
But China has banned overt signs of religious observance, like veils and beards.
Last year a government crackdown on fasting during the month of Ramadan led to the deaths of 18 people after Chinese Muslims attacked police with knives and bombs at a traffic checkpoint in Kashgar.
Some Chinese Christians say the authorities are also limiting their activities and have taken down crosses on churches in Zhejiang province.
The authorities said crosses were removed because they violated regulations against illegal structures.
Protests broke out in 2014 in the city of Wenzhou, which has a large Christian minority, over the government’s cross demolition campaign.
In January the authorities said a Christian pastor was being investigated for suspicion of embezzling funds.
The investigation came after the pastor opposed the campaign to remove crosses.
Last month Christian lawyer Zhang Kai was freed after being arrested in August on the eve of a meeting with David Saperstein, a US envoy researching religious freedom.
Mr Zhang was released after the intervention of US Secretary of State John Kerry.