Chinese Premier Would Tighten Grip on Religion

BEIJING, MARCH 5, 2002 ( Premier Zhu Rongji called for stronger controls on religion in China, underscoring a bid to stifle groups deemed a threat to Communist Party rule, Reuters reported.

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Just one day after the United States denounced an intensified crackdown on some religious groups in China, Zhu called today for stronger management of religious affairs and urged religious groups to adapt to socialist society.

Zhu also defended the ongoing crackdown on groups such as Falun Gong, branded a cult in 1999 after thousands of followers staged a mass protest around the Beijing leadership compound.

´´We must continue to fight Falun Gong and other cults,´´ Zhu told a gathering of 3,000 legislators at the annual two-week session of China´s parliament.

Beijing-based diplomats said Zhu´s comments reiterated the policy of granting freedom to religious groups under direct Communist Party control while clamping down on those considered dangerous to party control.

U.S. President George W. Bush, during his visit last month, called on Beijing to expand religious freedoms. He also urged Chinese President Jiang Zemin to talk to the Vatican and the Dalai Lama.

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