The central government has ordered state media to step up efforts to promote 'orthodox' communism. It is the latest attempt to control a growth in religious activity the government considers both rapid and worrying. The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television recently issued a directive urging all state television and radio broadcasters to produce programmes that promote atheism, and to denounce 'deviant beliefs', such as those held by the banned Falun Gong sect. Special programmes on the principles and practise of Marxism, Leninism and Maoism - as well as Deng Xiaoping's theories and the Theory of the Three Represents - should be aired to educate the masses, it said, adding that presentations should be lively and colourful so as not to bore viewers. Scientific knowledge and thinking should be promoted, particularly among the young, it said. 'A social environment should be fostered to respect science and civilisation,' the official notice said. Condemnation and criticism of the outlawed Falun Gong, banned in 1999 by the government as an evil cult, should be intensified. The government accuses the spiritual sect of preaching dangerous messages, such as encouraging its followers to harm themselves - an accusation disputed by followers. 'Atheism should be promoted by using Falun Gong as a negative example,' the notice said. Although there is little clue as to why the mainland has chosen to re-emphasise its orthodox doctrines now, the gesture may be indicative of the pressure felt by its leaders over the rise in religious activity. During the Cultural Revolution, ancient Chinese philosophies such as Confucianism and Taoism, along with other religions, were condemned as feudalist superstitions. But over the past 20 years, as free-market reforms have eclipsed Marxist ideology and social controls have loosened, people have turned to religion again for spiritual fulfilment. According to official statistics quoted by the Christian Amity News Service, the number of Christians in Jiangsu province alone grew sixfold to 900,000 in 1995, from 125,000 a decade earlier. Christian academics estimate that there are at least 20 million Protestant Christians and 12 million Catholics on the mainland.