"China’s estimated 85 million members of the Communist Party have been warned that they are not allowed to have religious beliefs, and that those who do will be punished.

Wang Zuoan, director of the state administration for religious affairs, said that religion undermined communism. Party members must be 'firm Marxist atheists, obey party rules and stick to the party’s faith'.

Mao Zedong, China’s first communist leader, tried to destroy religion and the party has long since promoted atheism.

His comments were published in the party magazine Qiuishi Journal. The party is preparing for its autumn congress amid an intense propaganda drive to promote its values and loyalty to President Xi."