China to crack down on religious cults


Reuters/January 5, 1999
By Benjamin Kang Lim

Beijing -- Chinese authorities are cracking down on cults and religious activities that they say threaten national security, as part of a campaign to preserve stability in a year of politically sensitive anniversaries.

President Jiang Zemin declared war on cults last week and called for stability in rural areas.

``We must suppress cults and the use of religion to engage in illegal activities to maintain social stability in farming villages,'' Jiang said.

Police in central Hunan province smashed China's biggest cult -- the Zhu Shen Jiao, or Supreme Spirit Sect -- last year and rounded up more than 20 people, according to state media.

A court official said on Tuesday said cult leader Liu Jiaguo and his lieutenant, Zhu Aiqing, faced charges of sabotaging law enforcement, rape and fraud.

The cult had called for the overthrow of a ``secular nation'' and the establishment of a ``spiritual nation,'' and proposed buying firearms to engage in armed rebellion, the media said.

Liu, a 34-year-old peasant from central Anhui province, had recruited more than 10,000 members across China.

Chinese authorities, worried about any challenge to Communist rule, last month jailed three activists who tried to set up an opposition party.

Judicial officials have vowed to clamp down on subversive book and magazine publishers, artists, filmmakers and software programmers.

Stability is the watchword this year in the predominantly Buddhist region of Tibet and Moslem Xinjiang, which have been rocked by unrest in the past decade.

Guo Jinlong, the Communist Party secretary in the Himalayan region of Tibet, vowed to crack down on religious activities that endangered national security, the official Tibet Daily said in an edition seen on Tuesday.

Tibet has been rocked in the past decade by several, often violent, pro-independence demonstrations led by monks and nuns.

Keyun Bawudun, the Communist Party deputy secretary in northwestern Xinjiang, has cautioned against infiltration by foreign religious organisations.

``Nobody can use any excuse to oppose Communist Party leadership and the socialist system or endanger national security,'' Bawudun was quoted as saying by the Xinjiang Daily in an edition seen on Tuesday.

Xinjiang, home to Turkish-speaking Uighurs who make up about 47 percent of the region's population of 17 million, has been rocked by sporadic rioting, bombings and assassinations over the past two years.

Uighur militants have agitated for an independent East Turkestan in Xinjiang, which borders Afghanistan, Pakistan and three former Soviet Central Asian republics.

China is bracing for trouble around the dates of politically sensitive anniversaries this year.

China celebrates its 50th founding anniversary in October. June marks the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

March marks the 40th anniversary of an abortive uprising against communist rule in Tibet and the Dalai Lama, the Himalayan region's god-king, fleeing into exile in India.


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