BEIJING (Reuters) – China is facing heightened threats from foreign infiltration via religion and from the spread of extremism, a top official for religious affairs said on Tuesday, after strict new rules were passed to manage religious practice in the country.
President Xi Jinping has emphasized the need to guard against foreign infiltration through religion and to prevent the spread of “extremist” ideology, while also being tolerant of traditional faiths that he sees as a salve to social ills.
China’s cabinet last week passed updated rules to regulate religion so as to bolster national security, fight extremism and restrict faith practiced outside state approved organizations. The new rules take effect in February.
Wang Zuoan, the head of China’s religious affairs bureau, said the revision was urgently needed because “the foreign use of religion to infiltrate (China) intensifies by the day and religious extremist thought is spreading in some areas.”