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Xi Jinping

Be on guard for foreign religious infiltrators, Chinese president warns

Xi’s caution comes amid criticism of tighter official grip on activities of religious groups

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 April, 2016, 5:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 April, 2016, 9:55am

China must guard against religious extremism and foreign infiltration through religion, President Xi Jinping told a high-level meeting on religious affairs on the weekend.

Xi also said the internet was a key propaganda front to promote the Communist Party’s stand on religion. “We must resolutely resist overseas infiltration through religious means and guard against ideological infringement by extremists,” Xinhua on Saturday quoted Xi as saying.

He urged officials to fully implement policies on religious freedom, stressing that religious groups must abide by the party’s leadership.

Religious groups should “merge religious doctrines with Chinese culture, abide by Chinese laws and regulations, and devote themselves to China’s reform and opening-up drive and socialist modernisation to contribute to the realisation of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation,” he was quoted as saying.

Wenzhou’s removal of crosses and actions elsewhere may signal wider crackdown

The remarks come amid criticism that authorities have tightened the rein on religious groups in recent years.

In Zhejiang province, local governments have removed more than 1,200 crosses from churches and other buildings in recent years, citing regulations on illegal structures. The campaign ignited angry protests from Christians, especially in Wenzhou, a city with a big Christian community.

Zhang Kai, a Christian lawyer who defended the churches, was detained for seven months and paraded on state television on charges of “endangering state security” and “assembling a crowd to disrupt social stability”.

China releases Christian human rights lawyer held for months in detention

Zhang also “admitted” to collaborating with “foreign forces”, but many international human rights watchdogs claimed it was a forced confession.

China has stepped up its guard against foreign infiltration across society, clamping down on foreign non-governmental organisations and arresting scores of foreign NGO workers.

It also marked National Security Education Day this year with a comic-book-style poster warning young women government workers about dating handsome foreigners, who could turn out to have secret agendas.