As the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rolls out new regulations for churches and religious organizations, Christian watch groups are reporting that Bible apps, Christian WeChat accounts, and online Bible sales have all been targeted.
Over the weekend, International Christian Concern reported that China’s National Religious Affairs Administration’s “Measures for the Administration of Religious Personnel” has gone into effect, giving the CCP influence into the appointment of members of clergy. However, it appears that as part of the new program, digital access to the Bible is also being simultaneously barred.
According to the ICC, Bible apps are no longer available on the App Store in China and hardcover Bibles are no longer available for sale online, even as bookstores owned by the state-sanctioned Three-Self Church have ramped up sales of a book that promotes Chinese President Xi Jinping’s party ideology, i.e., authoritarian propaganda.
“Those who want to download Bible Apps have to use VPN [Virtual Private Network] to circumvent the Firewall,” the Christian watch group noted.
Meanwhile, Christian accounts on the Chinese social media network WeChat have also been scrubbed, according to a tweet from Father Francis Liu of the Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness. He included screenshots of accounts such as “Gospel League” and “Life Quarterly” which show a message reading, “[We] received report that [this account] violates the ‘Internet User Public Account Information Services Management Provisions’ and its account has been blocked and suspended.”
Earlier this year, ICC reported that the authoritarian regime had launched an effort to stamp out “illegal social organizations,” including non-state-sanctioned home churches.
“In the eyes of the Chinese government, any religious group that refuses to submit to the CCP, or even charity groups, are seen as ‘illegal organizations,’ for the government is fearful that these civil groups can become a force that overthrows them,” Father Liu told Radio Free Asia in March.
Chinese state media soothingly assure readers that the CCP’s new regulations for religious practice are meant to “better identify the responsibilities of religious clergies, improve the cultivation of religious talents, and protect their legal interests in accordance with laws,” but those laws also state that “religious clergy should resist illegal religious activities, religious extremism, or overseas forces’ use of religion to infiltrate China.”
In carrying out their professed mission to target and prevent “religious extremism,” the CCP has already detained over one million Uighur Muslims in gruesome detention camps in the Xinjiang province, where, according to survivor accounts, men and women are subject to abuse, torture, and sterilization. What’s more, in their drive to slow the wildfire spread of Christianity, Chinese authorities have begun detaining Christians in secret mobile facilities where those who refuse to renounce their faith are brainwashed and tortured.
Any red-blooded American patriot’s blood will recoil at the notion that any state government has the right to “identify the responsibilities of religious clergies,” but the Chinese regime is the sort of real-life dystopic system of horrific oppression that, by design, is meant to empower only itself — not the people and certainly not any notion of religious liberty.
The people of China need both our fervent prayers and fearless advocacy — lest we stand by as one of the most tyrannical forces the world has ever seen emboldens itself even further to the physical, emotional, and spiritual destruction of tens of millions of its own citizens … and potentially even of those who live well beyond its borders.