BEIJING (Reuters) - China will prosecute a former official who was “obsessed with divination” for corruption, the top graft-buster said on Thursday, in the latest warning to bureaucrats not to engage with what the Communist Party views as superstition.
Wu Dehua, who worked in the southwestern city of Chongqing’s Yubei district, had been expelled from the party and handed over to legal authorities after a probe found serious discipline violations, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said on its website.
Wu’s transgressions included being “obsessed with divination and fortune telling” and trying to create his own “fallacious and evil teachings”, the watchdog said.
He was also accused of taking bribes, spreading political rumors, exchanging power for money and money for sex, and collecting “reactionary magazines”.
It did not give specifics on the magazines, but reactionary is a term that dates to the early days of Communist China that often refers to conservative or anti-Communist ideas.
It was not possible to reach Wu or a representative for comment and unclear if he had been allowed to retain a lawyer.
Chongqing has been ground zero for President Xi Jinping’s war against graft, with two of its former party chiefs jailed for corruption.
China officially guarantees freedom of religion for major belief systems, but party members are meant to be atheists and are especially banned from participating in what China calls superstitious practices like visiting soothsayers.
However, Chinese people, especially the country’s leaders, have a long tradition of putting their faith in soothsaying and geomancy, looking for answers in times of doubt, need and chaos.
The practice has grown more risky amid Xi’s sweeping crackdown on deep-seated corruption.
In one of the most famous recent cases, China’s powerful former security chief, Zhou Yongkang, was jailed for life in part due to accusations he leaked undisclosed state secrets to a fortune teller and healer called Cao Yongzheng, known as the “Xinjiang sage” after the far western region where he grew up.
Reporting by Michael Martina and Ben Blanchard