Starting this month churches will need authorization in China to publish any content online, via text, video or audio. The measure is yet another by the Communist Party that seeks to restrict non-Chinese religious activity in the country.
The so-called “Measures for the Administration of Religious Internet Information Services”, announced by President Xi Jinping in a December 2021 speech, prohibit or limit much of religious action on the Internet.
A license will be required to disclose religious information in text, image or audio formats through websites, apps, blogs or live streams. Fundraising is also prohibited.
According to Japan’s international website Nikkei Asia, Xi Jinping emphasized in his speech the need for all churches to “adapt to a socialist society”.
The US-based human rights organization Freedom House estimates that China is home to 60 million to 80 million Protestants and about 12 million Catholics.
The new rules, drafted by five departments including the State Administration for Religious Affairs, prohibit the creation of religious organizations or online schools, as well as any efforts to attract new followers.
Religious content that opposes Communist Party leadership or incites the subversion of state power will be banned. Faith cannot be used to “obstruct the implementation of judicial, educational, matrimonial, social or other state systems,” the rules say.
The global organization Open Doors, which supports Christians in more than 60 countries, said that, in practice, the new law “means that online sermon services, Bible studies or any other religious message in the form of text, photo, audio and video only may be accessed through state-approved channels.
“Religious institutions, such as seminaries, will be able to train students using only approved platforms and applications. Contact with the outside world can only be done through specialized networks, in which the identity of the participants is verified”, completed Open Doors.