Chinese universities urged to fight back against foreign religion Chinese leaders have urged universities to fight back against a foreign "plot" to use religion to "westernise and divide" their country. In an official directive, apparently distributed last year by officials from China's powerful Central Committee and leaked to a US-based Christian group, the government compares foreigners preaching religion in China to a "disease" that must be treated. Universities must give "absolutely no opportunity for foreign use of religion to infiltrate" their campuses, it says. "With China's rapid economic and social development and the steady growth of China's comprehensive national strength, the US-led Western countries are ceaselessly increasing the intensity of their containment of China," reads one section of the 16-page document in a translation published by the Washington Post. "Foreign hostile forces have put even greater emphasis [on] using religion to infiltrate China to carry out their political plot to westernise and divide China." Chinese students are being "lured into taking part" in religious activities and "forceful measures" are required to counter this "plot", the document claims. The notice, apparently issued in May 2011 by the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, suggests ongoing misgivings among senior leaders that religion, and in particular Christianity, poses a direct challenge to the ruling party. Bob Fu, the founder of ChinaAid, the group which obtained and published the document, said the directive was proof China's central government was "directing a national crackdown against religious freedom especially targeting Christianity [in universities]". Mr Fu claimed the document also indicated "panic" among Chinese intellectuals about the "rapid" growth of [China's] underground Christian population". An official from the propaganda department of the State Council said they were unable to immediately comment on whether the document was genuine. But posts on the websites of several Chinese universities appear to confirm the leaked document's existence. An entry on the website of the Chongqing College of Electronic Engineering which referred to a directive with the same title said a "leadership team" had been set up to "do a good job of resisting foreign use of religion to infiltrate higher education institutes." A similar post on the website of Heihe University outlined a series of measures to "better carry out defence and prevention work" against the "foreign use of religion." The Hohhot University of Nationalities website said "relevant departments are required to do a serious job" to prevent foreign infiltration and "campus evangelism." Officially China is an atheist country where proselytising is outlawed. Buddhism and Taosim receive some backing from Beijing but Christianity is still tightly controlled. The Catholic church in China is overseen by the Catholic Patriotic Association while official Protestant churches are controlled by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. Both answer to China's Religious Affairs Bureau. Last week it emerged that a Chinese bishop, Thaddeus Ma Daqin, had been stripped of his title after speaking out against state meddling in the church earlier this year. Yet despite government controls, the number of Christians in China has rocketed since the 1980s with many worshipping in illegal "house churches" which are subject to sporadic crackdowns. Some estimates suggest there are now as many as 130 million practicing Christians in China. But the leaked document suggests senior leaders take a dim view of foreigners they believe are helping to drive Christianity's rapid advance. The document says China's border control agency should "resolutely prevent from entering China foreigners who will use religion to endanger state security." Controls should also be strengthened on university internet networks, "to strictly prevent evangelism" and offending staff members should be dismissed. "For those stubborn people who insist on proselytising, they should be fired or expelled from the school."