Senior China minister says some officials practice sorcery

BEIJING - Some top Chinese officials are guilty of practicing sorcery and would rather believe in gurus and Western concepts of democracy than the Communist Party, a senior minister wrote on Thursday, warning of the danger they presented to its survival.

China guarantees freedom of religion for major belief systems such as Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, but party members are meant to be atheists and are barred from what it calls superstitious practices, such as visits to soothsayers.

Recent years have seen several cases of officials jailed as part of President Xi Jinping's crackdown on corruption being accused of superstition, part of the party's efforts to blacken their names.

Some senior officials in leadership positions had "fallen morally", their beliefs straying from the correct path, wrote Chen Xi, the recently appointed head of the party's powerful Organisation Department that oversees personnel decisions.

"Some don't believe in Marx and Lenin but believe in ghosts and gods; they don't believe in ideals but believe in sorcery; they don't respect the people but do respect masters," he wrote in the official People's Daily, referring to spiritual leaders or gurus.

People in China, especially its leaders, have a long tradition of turning to soothsaying and geomancy to find answers to their problems in times of doubt, need and chaos.

The practice has grown more risky amid Xi's war on graft, in which dozens of senior officials have been imprisoned.

Attacking officials whose faith in communism is wavering, Chen said some consider it an "entirely unreal mirage", and have lost faith in socialism.

Instead, they look to Western concepts of the separation of power and multi-party systems as their ideal, added Chen, who also runs the Central Party School that trains rising officials.

He did not name any officials guilty of practicing superstition or fawning over the West.

But elsewhere in the article he named some of those caught up in the most high-profile recent cases, such as the feared former domestic security chief, Zhou Yongkang and the former party boss of Chongqing, Sun Zhengcai, sacked for corruption in July.

They were "political careerist plotters", whose cases showed that officials' political problems were no less a threat to the party than corruption, Chen wrote.

"The higher the position, the greater their platform, the greater the harm they caused to the party," he added.