China ups campaign against practices around superstitious beliefs

(Photo: REUTERS / Tyrone Siu)A worker sleeps at the backstage of a makeshift theater during the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival in Hong Kong August 20, 2013. According to superstition, the spirits of the dead return to Earth during the seventh month of the Chinese Lunar calendar, which runs from August 7 to September 4.

An industrial province in China is campaigning against "superstitious activities" in the area, trying to get rid of witches, shamans and even practitioners of Feng Shui.

The Shanxi provincial government announced it would deploy teams of inspectors in rural areas to weed out practitioners of such activities and other similar incidents that violate the country's laws on religion.

"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," the State-run Xinhua news agency reported January 21.

Debate on whether Feng Shui should be included in the crackdown has raged in past weeks, especially since practitioners of the ancient Chinese art of alignment can earn good money by providing advice to clients.

To stem the effect of the practice, the provincial government organized a series of lectures on science in the next two months as part of the campaign, according to the report.

Clergymen told that the campaign sought to weed out government workers targeted by the anti-corruption drive of President Xi Jinping.

Since Xi's campaign began two years ago, government officials have frequented temples to seek forgiveness, one clergyman told

"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.

He said Christians in the area are not targeted by the campaign. Shanxi is seen as among the least repressive areas in the country in terms of allowing worship.

The Chinese government showed caution on the rise of superstitious beliefs and cult organizations in past months as several incidents involving these groups triggered alarm.

Two members of the Almighty God Christian religious group were sentenced to death last year for killing a woman at a fast food joint in Shandong province.

A Lanzhou court meanwhile, handed down prison sentences on six members of the group last year for disturbing "order and the work of State agencies."

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