Listen: Tim Reid in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty
China’s communist government last week issued a ban on internet sales of the Bible. Beijing also issued its first white paper on religious freedom in 21 years. There is a long-standing rule that the Bible cannot be sold publicly or on the internet in China but oversight of this rule has been allowed to slide over the years.
One observer told Catholic online news service UCANNEWS.com – “It can only be sold in churches that the government permits — it looks like the government has started to take the matter seriously,”.
The white paper outlines the policies governing religion. It describes party authority over religion as being necessary for China’s independence, saying that “western” religions such as Christianity “had long been controlled and utilized by colonialists and imperialists.”
A project officer at the Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong, told UCANews “The white paper mentioned managing religious affairs according to the law but the so-called law in China is not to protect religious freedom of citizens but to monitor and control religions”.
So what is happening in China? Open Doors is an international organisation working for the persecuted Christian church around the world.
They are the people who compile the annual “World Watch List” which documents the most dangerous places on earth to follow Jesus.
The decision to enforce existing rules about online Bible sales is perhaps simply a decision to enforce an existing rule. However, Tim Reid, a Persecution Analyst with Open Doors Australia, is very concerned about what it and other recent changes by the Beijing authorities might signal about the future of religious freedom in China.