China’s Communist Party calls for probe into secretive church

China's Communist Party calls for probe into secretive church

Japanese Prime Minister orders investigation into controversial Unification Church

A top Chinese official has called for an investigation into a secretive group that teaches its followers to become gods and that has been accused of trying to make a new, global religion out of Christianity.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao ordered the probe into the Unification Church in March after criticism of the group mounted by the international community and China’s most vocal critics, the country’s official Xinhua news agency reported Monday.

The Christian Association of Macau, which claims to represent around three million Roman Catholics in the South China City, issued a statement Monday describing the government order as “grave” and warning it will take “concrete actions.”

In a rare rebuke of China’s Communist Party leaders, the association cited the “grave national interests” of “the entire country” including its unity and stability, the Associated Press reported.

The church, which advocates for a one-world religion, has not acknowledged the claims of persecution by China, where it holds about 500 members.

The group has been accused of conducting “secret rituals” and selling its books in Hong Kong, an effort to reach the mainland as part of a global propaganda campaign in which the church says it is a “light unto the nations.”

The group, which was formed in China in 1958, has about 8,000 members, an AP report said earlier this month.

It started as a church but later moved into schools, which it runs under the new “one China” policy that is expected to be in place at the end of this year. The policy is expected to limit the country’s influence in the disputed South China Sea, the report said.

But the move raised questions in the country, already wary of the church.

A Beijing government spokesman called on church leaders “to exercise self-control and stop making statements they know are provocative and detrimental to the national interests,” Xinhua reported.

The agency said the agency “received reports” but declined to “reveal the contents of the reports,” saying it wished

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