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China’s president tells religions to shun foreign influences

Beijing (UCAN): China’s president, Xi Jinping, urged China’s religions to shun foreign influence amid concerns over Islamic extremism and the role of The Vatican in the country’s growing Church community.

Speaking to the United Front Work Department in Beijing on May 21, Xi said that the government must value religious leaders and, in turn, direct them to better serve China’s development and unification—a reference to restive Xinjiang and Tibet.

“Active efforts should be made to incorporate religions in socialist society,” Xi said adding, “we must manage religious affairs in accordance with the law and adhere to the principle of independence to run religious groups on our own accord.”

Following a rise in Islamic separatist attacks in Xinjiang province and western China, home to 12 million Muslim Uyghurs, that left at least 500 people dead in 2014, Xi’s administration has taken a tougher line on the different faiths in the country. 

Last year, authorities closed dozens of madrassas and banned people under 18-years-old from visiting mosques in the restive province and it was reported that earlier in May, passports were confiscated near Xinjiang’s border with Kazakhstan to keep Muslims from travelling to and from the region.

Beijing has cited the outflow of Chinese fighters seeking to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria, as well as the presence in northern Pakistan of militant separatists from Xinjiang as justification for restrictions.

State media recently announced plans to enlarge the only Muslim training centre in Xinjiang in a bid to exercise greater control over Islamic teachers and their interpretation of the Qu’ran.

In a report published on May 21, the United States of America-based Uyghur Human Rights Project said, “(Chinese policy) has included extensive curbs on Islam through state administration of religion and engineering a diminished role for the Uyghur language in education,” 

Similarly, with regards to Tibet, Beijing recently rejected the exiled Dalai Lama’s proposed Middle Way for Tibetan rule, which proposed greater autonomy according to Buddhist principles.

The government has also introduced an advanced education course targeting monasteries, which traditionally lead cyclical protests against Chinese rule. The course handbook notes that the first task is to cultivate and build a reserve of Tibetan Buddhists who are “politically reliable, educated and venerable.”

In April, the Communist Party chief in Tibet announced new classes for monks that would teach Chinese law, as well as a programme to supply radios and newspapers to remote monasteries in an apparent bid to more widely diffuse information put out by China’s state-controlled media.

While the government has engaged in talks with the Holy See in recent months, it has given no sign that it may be willing to cede any meaningful control in the matter of the appointment of bishops.

Meanwhile in Zhejiang, a crackdown has continued that has seen at least 470 crosses removed and more than 35 churches destroyed since the end of 2013.

During his tenure, Xi has regularly distinguished between so-called foreign religions—particularly Christianity and Islam—and homegrown faiths by actively endorsing Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism.

China’s state media has published frequent Confucian references made by Xi, a series that was compiled and published as a book in March.


One quote, among the most frequently cited by the Chinese president reads: “The most dangerous situation is when apparently everything seems fine, but there breeds hidden danger. If one only sits and watches, the situation would worsen and there would be no turning back.”

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