China must be on guard against foreign infiltration through religion and stop “extremists” spreading their ideology, President Xi Jinping told a top-level meeting on managing religion, state media reported on Sunday. China must also manage the Internet to promote the Communist Party’s religious theories and policies, the official Xinhua news agency cited Xi as saying.
“We must resolutely resist overseas infiltration through religious means and guard against ideological infringement by extremists,” Xi was quoted as saying at a two-day national working conference on religion that ended on Saturday.
The ruling Communist Party says it protects freedom of religion, but it keeps a tight rein on religious activities and allows only officially recognized religious institutions to operate.
The government is concerned about what it sees as the growing influence by Islamists in the Xinjiang region in the far west where hundreds of people have been killed over the past few years in violence between members of the Muslim Uighur community and majority Han Chinese.
Officials there have stepped up regulations banning overt signs of religious observance, like veils or beards.
Separately, some Chinese Christians say authorities are limiting their activities and taking down crosses on churches in coastal Zhejiang province.
Authorities have said crosses are removed because they violate regulations against illegal structures.
Protests broke out in 2014 in the heavily Christian city of Wenzhou, also in Zhejiang, over the government’s cross demolition campaign.
In January, authorities also said a Christian pastors was being investigated for suspicion of embezzling funds. The investigation came after the pastor opposed the campaign to remove crosses.
Communist party members must adhere to Marxist principles and remain “staunchly atheist”, Xi said in his remarks.
In reality, it is the Islamists who are imposing their Sharia driven agenda on the public and the Chinese government is thwarting their attempts. For example, in one unrelated incident in neighboring Qinghai province on Friday, an angry crowd of Muslims smashed windows of a supposedly halal store in Xining city, after pork sausages and ham were found in a delivery van, according to the local government and photographs on social media.
Authorities in Xinjiang viewed ethnic Muslim Uighurs/Uyghurs who did not smoke as adhering to “a form of religious extremism” and this is true to a certain extent. They issued the order to counter growing religious sentiment that was “affecting stability,” he said.
The notice ordered all restaurants and supermarkets in Aktash to sell five different brands of alcohol and cigarettes and display them prominently. “Anybody who neglects this notice and fails to act will see their shops sealed off, their businesses suspended, and legal action pursued against them,” the notice said.
According to Radio Free Asia, Hotan prefecture, where Aktash is located, had become “a hotbed of violent stabbing and shooting incidents between ethnic Uighurs and Chinese security forces.”