The Chinese government has introduced new measures to restrict online religious activities.
On 20 December the State Administration of Religious Affairs, along with the Ministries of Industry and Information Technology, Public Security and State Security, announced the restrictions that will take effect from 1 March 2022.
It will no longer be possible to conduct religious activities online without government authorisation.
Organisations and individuals wishing to provide religious information online must apply to their local Department of Religious Affairs office. Sermons, worship services and training activities run by religious groups, churches and individuals may be broadcast online only after obtaining a special licence.
Restrictions are also imposed on content aimed at young people. Online communications must not “induce minors to become religious, organise them or force them to participate in religious activities”.
The measures also decree that foreign organisations and individuals or organisations established by foreigners are not allowed to operate online religious information services within Chinese territory.
The government’s aim appears to be to further “Sinicise” – that is, make Chinese – religion.
The clampdown comes amid increasingly restricted access to both digital and printed Bibles in China. In October 2021 a Christian software company, Olive Tree Bible Software was forced to remove its Bible app from the Apple App Store in China after failing to gain the necessary authorisation from the Chinese government.
In summer 2021 several Christian accounts were removed from WeChat – China’s main social media platform – while Christian search terms such as “Christ”, “Bible” and “Gospel” were also blocked.