February 5, 2016 / 4:36 AM / 2 years ago

China commands that even retired officials shun religion

A security guard keeps watch at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, December 10, 2015.Jason Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese officials who are also Communist Party officials are banned from religious activities even when they have retired, and must also oppose what the government terms cults, state media said on Friday.

China's constitution proclaims freedom of belief, but in reality the officially atheist ruling Communist Party keeps a tight rein over religious activities and officials who are party members are not supposed to practise religion.

In an explanation of new rules published by major state newspapers, the party's powerful Organisation Department, which oversees personnel decisions, said retired officials who were also party members had to follow these rules too.

"There are clear rules that retired officials who are party members cannot believe in religion and cannot attend religious activities, and must resolutely struggle against evil cults," an unnamed official said in the lengthy explanation.

Authorities have gone after what they view as cults, which have multiplied in recent years, and demonstrations have been put down with force and some sect leaders executed.

Retired officials must also be aware that "certain ethnic minority folk custom activities" they happen to attend are nothing to do with religion, the official added, without elaborating.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie

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