China promoting flying of state flags at religious events

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BEIJING (AP) — Officially recognized faith groups in China are promoting the flying of national flags at religious events amid a push by the ruling Communist Party to extend its ideological control over religious life.

Flying the flag would emphasize that the fates of the party, nation and individual are "bound tightly together," a statement viewed Wednesday on the website of the party's United Front Work Department that oversees such groups said.

"Raising the flag at religious venues abets the strengthening of religious figures' and religious believers' national and civic consciousness and creates a sense of the Chinese nation's community," said the statement, issued following a conference of groups representing Buddhists, Taoists, Protestants, Catholics and Muslims.

The officially atheistic party has tightened its grip over the country's five officially recognized religions this year, ordering especially that Christians and Muslims — religions considered foreign to China — work toward "sinosization."

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the northwestern region of Xinjiang have been confined to re-education camps, where they are told to repudiate Islam and their traditional Uighur culture and pledge fealty to the party. The authorities have removed crosses and other exterior identifiers from Christian churches and some have been demolished.

That was accompanied earlier this year by a campaign led by president and party leader Xi Jinping to promote the works of Karl Marx, who famously called religion the "opium of the people."

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