A top Chinese government official has said that members of the ruling Communist Party must abandon any religious beliefs they hold for Marxist atheism.
"Party members should not have religious beliefs, which is a red line for all members. ... Party members should be firm Marxist atheists, obey Party rules and stick to the Party's faith ... they are not allowed to seek value and belief in religion," Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, wrote in an article for the CPC Central Committee, as reported by China's Global Times on Tuesday.
Wang further argued that Communist Party members shouldn't get involved in religious affairs, and that the government needs to maintain its tight grip on religious groups.
"We should guide religious groups and individuals with socialist core values and excellent traditional Chinese culture and support religious groups to dig into their doctrines to find parts that are beneficial to social harmony and development," he added.
"Some foreign forces have used religion to infiltrate China, and extremism and illegal religious activities are spreading in some places, which have threatened national security and social stability."
Wang's narrative fits with what several persecution watchdog groups have warned is happening in China, in terms of the government's crackdown on churches and believers.
For the past several years Communist Party authorities have arrested hundreds of pastors and Christian activists who've protested against forced church demolitions. Christian gatherings have also been accused of being a national security risk.
Freedom House estimated in March that as many as 100 million people, including Protestant Christians, are facing "high" or "very high" levels of persecution at the hands of the atheistic government.
Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, and Falun Gong practitioners were also said to be severely targeted for their faith.
Bob Fu of the nonprofit group China Aid previously told The Christian Post that the Chinese government fears the rise of the Christian population, which is subjected to severe persecution, and has been arresting those who speak out against its authority.
The Communist Party openly promotes its athistic beliefs and released an 11-minute propaganda video called "What If Atheism Is a Religion?" to its Youth League back in May.
The video largely mocks Christian beliefs, and positions that is was humans, and not God, who saved the world.
Commenting on the video, International Christian Concern wrote at the time: "Christianity is growing at exponential rates in China and there are more believers than ever now."
ICC added: "The fact that the video portrays atheism as a religion in itself could be a sign that China's government sees it is losing the battle against religion, and may represent a new approach to to counteracting Christianity's growth."