While restrictions on religion in China typically have been only loosely enforced, new statements from the Chinese government have made it clear that members of the Communist Party of China will face punishment if they show support for any religion. The Communist Party is officially atheist but has been somewhat tolerant of other religious beliefs—until their recent insistence that members adhere to Marxist atheism.
In a statement by Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, he wrote, “Party members should not have religious beliefs, which is a red line for all members. … they are not allowed to seek value and belief in religion,” reported China’s Global Times.
He added, “Party members should be firm Marxist atheists, obey party rules and stick to the party’s faith. They are not allowed to seek value and belief in religion. … Officials who have religious faith should be persuaded to give it up, and those who resist would be punished by the party organization.” His comments were published in the party magazine Qiuishi Journal, impacting nearly 90 million Chinese citizens in the Communist Party.
According to The Christian Post, Wang’s statement lines up with the recent clampdown on believers and churches in the country. Officials in the Communist Party have made arrests over the past few years, citing Christian activists and pastors protesting forced demolitions of local churches. Additionally, it is reported that Protestant Christians are facing high levels of persecution and that Christian gatherings are viewed as a national security risk by the government, they said.
Until now, Christians have been able to meet openly but not without consequences. The government will often censor gatherings and services as they see fit, causing many people to meet illegally in “underground” establishments to escape the control. With some estimates putting the number of Christians in China at 100 million and growing, it is reasonable to believe the government sees the restrictions as necessary to prevent further proliferation of the religion.