ucanews.com reporters, Beijing and Hong KongUpdated: April 21, 2015 07:23 PM GMT
Heavily industrialized Shanxi province has launched a two-month campaign against “superstitious activities” targeting witches, local shamans and even Feng Shui.
The provincial government announced it would send out inspection teams in rural areas to search out activities that violate China’s strict laws on religion and cults.
“If discovered, these activities will be recorded and relative personnel will be punished in line with the newly published guidelines by the Shanxi provincial Civilization Office,” state news agency Xinhua reported late on Wednesday.
An expected crackdown by Shanxi authorities on practitioners of Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese art of alignment with the environment, has generated a flurry of debate on social media in recent days. Feng Shui masters in China can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars advising a single person or project.
Chairman Mao Zedong suppressed the practice during the Cultural Revolution, and although Beijing maintains a ban on a leading book on the subject — Choi Gen Po Tong Chinese Almanac — there has never been an outright ban on Feng Shui.
In a bid to turn people away from superstition, Shanxi’s provincial government has organized a series of science events over the next two months as part of its campaign, which apparently started on Wednesday.
Christianity has so far been unaffected, said Church officials, with Shanxi remaining among the least repressive areas of the country in which to worship.
Priests and laypeople told ucanews.com that the campaign was likely designed to target government workers: use of fortune-tellers remains widespread and officials increasingly go to pray at temples for forgiveness amid a crackdown on corruption led by President Xi Jinping.
“The spread of superstitious activities is due to the utilitarianism of government officials and business people. They teach our people nothing but greed,” said Father Joseph Wang of Taiyuan, Shanxi’s provincial capital.
The Chinese government has become increasingly weary of superstition and cults in recent months after two members of the Christian sect ‘Almighty God’ were sentenced to death in October for killing a woman in a McDonalds in eastern Shandong province.
A court in the central city of Lanzhou sentenced six more members of the group to up to five years in prison late last year after they “seriously disturbed order and the work of state agencies”.