China’s communist government has put tough new measures in place that will control every word and image of religious content online.
The rules, which were introduced on 1 March, mean all religious information on the internet will be forbidden unless organisations obtain government permission.
This is simply not an option for unregistered house churches – and it is almost impossible for churches to register with a regime that is increasingly openly hostile to Christianity.
According to China Aid’s Bob Fu (pictured), ‘Having a license doesn’t mean churches can speak freely.
‘Approved organisations cannot post anything that undermines the country’s communist system or encourages minors to believe in religion.
‘They also can’t broadcast religious ceremonies, including worship services or baptisms.’
The new crackdown will affect students, house groups, religious seminaries, and others, even when it comes to someone using the internet to share their faith, Bible verses, or Christian songs, according to Chinese attorney Huang Deqi.
On a social media post, he described the crackdown as even being against the Chinese Constitution, which ostensibly guarantees freedom of speech and religion.
China Aid has confirmed all religious content posted on the internet – every word, image, and video – must be approved by the authorities. Failure to seek approval will result in the shutting down of the church’s internet service.
Quoted by global advocacy organisation Release International, China Aid has warned, ‘The measures indicate that the Chinese government has dramatically tightened its control on religion.
‘Implementing these new regulations will severely crackdown [sic] on freedom of speech and religion which is protected by the [Chinese] Constitution.’
According to Release International, Deqi stated in a post on WeChat, ‘It is the citizens’ freedom of religion to express their religious beliefs on the internet… [these rules] shamelessly restrict citizens’ fundamental rights by setting administrative authorisation, which abuses and oversteps authority.’
But the post was allegedly deleted within hours on 8 February, according to Release International’s partner.
Paul Robinson, chief executive of Release International, said, ‘Much of the church in China has been denied a place of worship and has been driven underground.
‘Now the authorities are banning all religious content online by any group that they do not officially control.’
He called on Christians to put themselves in their shoes, saying, ‘If you were in China, how would your church get permission to go online? First it would have to be registered – and that means being tightly controlled.
‘And then it would have to submit to every scrap of online content being checked and approved to make sure it promotes socialist values and supports the Communist Party.’