Party cadres told to avoid religion, superstition

BEIJING • China's top newspaper warned Communist Party officials yesterday not to "pray to God and worship Buddha" because communism is about atheism and superstition is at the root of many corrupt officials who fall from grace.

China officially guarantees freedom of religion for major belief systems such as Christianity, Buddhism and Islam, but party members are meant to be atheists and they are especially banned from participating in what China calls superstitious practices such as visiting soothsayers.

The party's official People's Daily said in a commentary that it had been common in the past few years to see officials that were taken down for corruption to have also participated in "feudalistic superstitious activities".

"In fact, some officials often go to monasteries, pray to God and worship Buddha," it said.

"Some officials are obsessed with rubbing shoulders with masters, fraternising with them as brothers and becoming their lackeys and their money-trees."

Chinese people, especially the country's leaders, have a long tradition of putting their faith in soothsaying and geomancy, as they look for answers in times of doubt, need and chaos.

The practice has grown more risky amid a sweeping crackdown on deep-seated corruption launched by President Xi Jinping upon assuming power in late 2012, where dozens of senior officials have been imprisoned.

In one of the most famous recent cases, China's powerful former security chief, Zhou Yongkang, was jailed for life in part due to accusations that he leaked undisclosed state secrets to a fortune teller and healer called Cao Yongzheng, known as the "Xinjiang sage" after the far-western region where he grew up.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2017, with the headline 'Party cadres told to avoid religion, superstition'. Print Edition | Subscribe