Chinese Christians report that Bibles, already banned from physical bookstores, are now disappearing from online retailer websites. Amazon and JD.com say that they have been warned against the sale of Bible’s as an “illegal publication”.
Local news sources report that, as of 1 April, single-word online searches for “Bible” have dropped to zero, raising concerns of a step up in suppressive internet censorship targeting religious freedom.
This clampdown arises during landmark negotiations with the Vatican which would lead to the Chinese government having a recognised role in approving the appointment of officials within the Roman Catholic Church in China. While the Vatican seems set to gain some powers in the deal, Chinese Catholics have voiced concerns that their Church could fall under the control of the communist party.
These developments follow the release of a government White paper on religion rolling out polices for the “sinicization of Christianity”, indicating a step up of the Chinese government’s ongoing repression of Christians. A “five-year plan” outlines measures to enforce the selective interpretation of Scripture in such a way as to affirm and promote the “the core values of socialism” within all Christian faith communities and forms of worship.
The communist government recognises only state-registered Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, officially admitting to the existence of around 22 million Christians, although there may be as many as 100 million Christians when figures for “underground” churches are included. It is predicted that, by 2030, there could be over 160 million Chinese Christians across all denominations.