China Restricting Religious Internet Activity

President Xi Jinping consolidates power

The Chinese Communist Party, an officially atheist outfit, has issued new rules linked to online religious activities. These rules come at a time when Beijing is waging a massive, nationwide crackdown on all religious institutions like churches and mosques.

The State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) in the Chinese Government posted a fresh draft of new regulations on September 11 relating to online religious activities. This will forbid, among many, any religious ceremony streaming like prayers and preaching. Even non-verbal snippets like the burning of incense will be banned. These new measures are encapsulated in 35 articles and described by those who have seen it as noticeably more "analytical" and "restrictive" compared to existing regulations on religious activities which came into practice in February.

The new regulations are much tougher. One article, to give an example, states that anyone who wishes to open any religious site should ask for permission from authorities. Permission would be granted only to those individuals who can be considered as politically reliable. They must also possess healthy morals. The schools and the organizations who receive this license are restricted to publish solely didactic material through the Internet only inside their internal network. These should be accessible only via passwords and a registered name. The rules highlight the fact that such organizations must not strive to convert anyone. They also cannot distribute any sort of religious texts or other similar material.

These are all happening under the President Xi Jinping regime, with Jinping arguably the most powerful statesman since the time of Mao Zedong. People who believe in God and religion have witnessed their freedoms being shrunk even as China undergoes a countrywide religious revival. The president has engaged his government to systematically repress religious people, from the time freedom in religion was enshrined in the constitution of China in 1982. Bob Fu of China Aid, a group operating out of the United States, said the enormity of the crackdown can be gauged by the fact that a well-known Beijing house church and several other churches in Henan were forcibly closed. Fu posted disturbing footage of stacks of Bibles being burned on his personal twitter account. He pointed out that this is the first time since the radical 1966 to 1976 period that Christians were forced to do and sign such declarations. This is done under the pain of school expulsion and the fear of welfare benefits loss.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter