It Signals A Tougher Crackdown On Chinese Christians And Churches
Chinese netizens can no longer buy Bibles online. Chinese shopping sites no longer display any results for “holy bible.” The restriction is limited to the Christian Holy Book only. Study guides related to the Bible are available and one can still purchase other holy books, like the Koran.
For the Chinese, religious restriction is not new. The country has always controlled Bible sales. Only state-sanctioned churches have the authority to print and distribute the book. Online sales, however, were not affected, until now.
The limiting measures were announced in the first week of April. The disappearances of Bibles from online bookshelves is the latest restriction placed by the Chinese Government on its Christian population. Among the country’s major religions, which include Islam, Buddhism, folk beliefs, and Taoism, only Christian books cannot be sold via regular commercial channels. It can only be found at the officially sanctioned church bookstores.
Beijing’s move comes at a time when the Chinese Government and the Vatican are negotiating to merge government churches and the many underground churches doing work in the country. If this is done, it will end an almost 70 year split between the Vatican churches and the state government ones. The cause of the division was Beijing’s perception of the Vatican’s anti-Communist stance.
Independent observers have less optimism about the trade. They claim that these new measures could portend a broader crackdown. A Chinese Government spokesperson, during a news conference on March 3, warned that the Chinese clergy would never be allowed to take orders from the Vatican.
A government reorganization which took place in 2018 resulted in the Communist Party department taking over management of the nation’s religious policy. Yang Fenggang of Purdue University opined that the latest moves are the handiwork of those Chinese authorities who oppose any relations between Beijing and the Vatican. He said that both Catholics and Protestants are on Beijing’s radar.
For Chinese Christians, this erosion has affected the nature of their worships. State-sanctioned churches do not have crosses. Christian places, including churches, have been demolished. The government has arrested many Chinese who are thought to worship Christ at home. The Chinese government claims that all religions need to adapt to socialist society.