Have you ever posted a Bible verses, shared a worship song or written about your faith online? In China, new rules coming into effect in two months, could mean you’d face questioning from the authorities. After banning the online sale of Bibles and Christian materials, the Chinese government has decided to further tighten the control of religious content online (including Buddhism, Muslim, Christianity and so on), meaning that sharing about faith on social media will be declared illegal while the creator or sharer of the post may face punishment. The new law is due to come into force in March.
There are some exceptions – those who have a ‘Internet Religious Information Service Permit,’ which is only available to ‘legally established’ churches (known as the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, which some claim are controlled by the Chinese authorities), can share religious content online.
Due to a wide spectrum of law enforcement in China, consequences to those who violate the new rule will vary. Churches that disobey could be asked by local authorities to ‘drink tea’ with them (in other words, face a moderate level of interrogation), receive warnings, and face administrative detention, among other punishments.
As soon as the announcement is made, even before the measure comes into force, a few of Open Doors’ contacts have received friendly reminders from the local authority to remove previously-posted religious content and discontinue any religious activities online, to avoid any troubles.
“While the pandemic swipes across China, churches meeting online have become a new normal,” Jian Hao*, a local believer, tells Open Doors. “With the new law out, the church’s extensive use of the internet for evangelism and spiritual nourishment is forced to come to a stop. As a result, our brothers and sisters will mostly be stripped of great access to online spiritual resources.”
China’s underground churches are facing a more severe situation. “This new measure is seen as a deterrent to our brothers and sisters. Some have started leaving inactive group chats, and decided to play it by ear once the law is effective.”
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