Beijing has been demanding its hundreds of millions of religious citizens, and their leaders, worship the party first and foremost, and then their respective gods, in a renewed bid to make the doctrine of all faiths secondary to the party’s tenets.
Top party mouthpiece the People’s Daily reported on Monday that Buddhist monks and nuns in the Tibet Autonomous Region had completed a three-day training in Lhasa about Beijing’s policies on religions plus socialism with Chinese characteristics to “strengthen their political beliefs”.
These Buddhists are asked to be “reliable” in politics to take a clear-cut and firm stance and play an active role “at critical moments”, though the article didn’t specify what “critical moments” refers to.
“Buddhist temples play a key role in Tibet’s stability… and such educational programs are a vital conduit to propagate Beijing’s policies among monks and nuns… Having Buddhists preach policies among their fellow believers is more effective than through third-party lectures or party cadres,” said the report.
The Tibet Daily, mouthpiece of the government in the autonomous region, also noted that more than 20,000 party cadres had been sent to 7,000 temples scattered across the frigid plateau to preach the spirit of the 19th party congress among Buddhists since October 2017.
Such ideological remoulding courses are not just offered in Tibet.
Xinhua also said China’s major religious associations have been ordered to organize seminars and workshops across the county to make their followers more attuned to the spirit of the Chinese constitution, as well as the host of party-decreed amendments to the document rubber-stamped by the Chinese legislature in March.
The latest amendments include a clause stipulating that the rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was the “innate and underlying political foundation” of the nation. A two-term cap on the president and vice president was also lifted.
Since March, religious and legal experts, party school professors, police and judges had been invited to symposiums and lectures at Buddhist temples to give talks about the newly amended constitution, Shi Zewu, deputy head of the Buddhist Association of China, said.
“Only when religious believers advocate and defend the Chinese Constitution can they better exercise their rights to religious freedom,” the association said.
Bureaucratic changes and new regulations introduced earlier this year have reportedly put the party in charge of the day-to-day running of religious affairs. The party has launched campaigns promoting atheism and loyalty to the CCP, while pushing its anti-religion stance and opposing separatism by minority groups and Western values.
Some 95% of the 25,000 or so religious staff in Tibet passed an aptitude test on the constitution, Tibet Daily also reported last month. The test helped shape the idea that “national laws are above religious rules,” it said.
China’s religious affairs also face constant challenges from “Arabization” and separatist moves, warned a expert on religious studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who said promoting the constitution must be carried out in concert with local efforts to combat separatists and extremism.