The Chinese government has increased measures to suppress religious belief and practice in the country. Source: CNA.
New regulations, published on the government’s legal information website on Monday, make it illegal for religious services, prayer, or preaching to be broadcast online.
Under the new “Measures for the management of religious information on the Internet” those groups or churches wishing to maintain a religious website will need a government-issued licence certifying that their content is politically acceptable.
Online evangelisation is strictly prohibited, as are materials aimed at converting readers. Catechetical or instructive resources cannot be openly published online and must be restricted to internal networks accessed with registered user names and passwords.
The ban represents the latest development in President Xi Jinping’s policy of “Sinicisation”, which places national identity and communist political belief over religious faith. At the same time as the new rules were published, reports emerged of more churches being closed in several provinces.
According to China Aid, a US based organisation supporting persecuted Christians, the first week of September saw government officials in Henan Province launch a wave of “escalating measures” against local Christians. These have included the removal and destruction of crosses from individuals and families, raids on church buildings, and the seizure of property.
Other reports include accounts of Bibles being burned and of Christians being forced to sign statements renouncing their faith.
The recent escalation is part of a pattern of church closures and demolitions across China following broad changes to government religious policy in February.
Writing on the China Aid website, Bob Fu, the organisation’s president, called the recent campaign a “massive clampdown” on religious freedom by government officials, and said it was a cause for serious concern.
“Now that the Chinese Communist Party has started to burn Bibles and coerce millions of believers in the Christian faith and other religious minorities to even sign a written pledge to renounce their basic religious beliefs," Dr Fu said, "the international community should be alarmed and outraged at this blatant violation of freedom of religion and belief and demand the Chinese regime stop and remedy this dangerous course.”