Chinese leaders 'retain strong suspicion of religion as West's tool', reveal documents
China's ruling officials retain strong suspicion of religion as a tool of the West as it has emerged that the authorities had issued an order last year quietly directing universities to root out foreigners suspected of plotting against the Communist Party by converting students to Christianity.
The 16-page notice, obtained by a U.S.-based Christian group, used language from the cold war era to depict a conspiracy by "overseas hostile forces" to infiltrate Chinese campuses under the guise of academic exchanges while their real intent is to use religion in "westernizing and dividing China."
According to the Washington Post, the document suggests that despite small signs of religious tolerance in recent decades, China retain strong suspicion of religion as a tool of the West and a threat to the party's authoritarian rule.
With the country's top leadership in transition and looking to consolidate power, Chinese religious leaders worry that the stance is unlikely to change in the near future, the Post said.
According to the paper, university records and official postings on college Web sites show that after the notice was issued on May 15, 2011, many campuses began adopting the stricter restrictions it proposed.
A leader in the illegal underground "house church" movement said Christian students in his province began hearing about the document in fall 2011 as university and government officials discussed how to implement the stipulations.
"The notice was read out loud in party meetings and youth league committees within colleges, but it was done orally, without giving out any hard copies," the paper quoted the church leader, as saying.
According to the Post, the document talks about infiltration by religion as a whole, but it singles out Christianity as particularly dangerous and the United States as leading the effort.
No other country or religion is mentioned by name, the Post said,