Inkstone
    Apr
    04
    2018
    Apr
    04
    2018
    China cracks down on online Bible selling
    China cracks down on online Bible selling
    SOCIETY

    China cracks down on online Bible selling

    Triangle 4
    arrow left
    arrow right
    by
    Grace Tsoi and Xinyan Yu
    Grace Tsoi and
    Xinyan Yu
    Subscribe to the Inkstone newsletter
    By registering you must agree to our T&Cs

    From airplanes to cow brains to part-time boyfriends, you can buy pretty much anything online in China.

    But the world’s best-selling book no longer makes the cut.

    The Bible is no longer available on China’s two biggest e-commerce sites, Taobao and JD.com. Taobao is owned by Alibaba, which also owns Inkstone.

    Bibles also do not appear on Dang Dang and Amazon.cn, two more popular e-commerce sites. 

    For now, online shoppers can still buy other Christian books, including story books and Bible study books. 

    Subscribe to the Inkstone newsletter
    By registering you must agree to our T&Cs
    Group 5
    We have to attach great importance to the problem of ‘internet religion’ 
    -
    Chinese President Xi Jinping

    “This probably started from March 30,” a source at a Chinese publishing house tells Inkstone. “Some shops on Taobao [selling Christian books] were permanently banned.”

    Both Taobao and JD.com have not responded to requests for comment.

    The source told Inkstone that Christian bookstores are subject to regular inspections from the Ministry of Culture. But one Christian bookstore in Beijing was inspected on Tuesday and officials warned that “foreign” books – Christian books published outside of China – could no longer be sold.

    The Chinese state makes a clear distinction between Protestantism and Catholicism, and these latest moves appear to be targeting the former.

    The Chinese government is uneasy with the rapid growth of Christianity.
    The Chinese government is uneasy with the rapid growth of Christianity. Photo: SIPA

    Meanwhile, Beijing and the Vatican are said to be close to sealing an agreement which may pave the way to normalizing relations that have been frozen for nearly seven decades.

    Tight control

    The publication and distribution of the Bible is tightly controlled by the Chinese government.

    The Bible is only available at points of sale under the China Christian Council (CCC) and the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches (TSPM), the two government-sanctioned bodies overseeing Protestant churches in the country.

    For Catholics, the Studium Biblicum Chinese-language translation of the Bible is used. It is published and distributed by the Beijing-recognized Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China.

    The Bible has long been categorized as “for internal distribution,” meaning that it cannot be widely sold.

    The Bible is for "internal distribution" only in China.
    The Bible is for "internal distribution" only in China. Photo: AP

    But for years, the authorities appear to have looked the other way, and Bibles were easily bought online.

    “[The ban on online sale] was not enforced strictly before,” says Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the Divinity School of Chung Chi College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

    According to Ying, only the China Christian Council is authorized to publish Bibles in mainland China.

    Other Christian books, including those published by the CCC and TSPM, are also classified as “for internal distribution.”

    Religion and the internet

    Ying believes the tightened controls over the online sale of Christian books are part of a state strategy to tackle the quick spread of Christianity through the internet.

    In April 2016, during a top-level conference on religion in China, President Xi Jinping talked about the need to manage the internet in order to regulate religions in the country.

    “We have to attach great importance to the problem of ‘internet religion’. We have to promote the religious theories and policies of the Party on the internet,” Xi said.

    There are about 38 million Protestants in China, according to the latest official data: the number has risen by about 65 percent from eight years ago.

    Academic estimates place the number of Protestants at up to 100 million in 2018. There are about 10 million Catholics in the country.

    A Protestant church in Shanxi was demolished by the local government in 2018.
    A Protestant church in Shanxi was demolished by the local government in 2018. Photo: China Aid Via AP

    Even though freedom of religious belief is enshrined in the Chinese constitution, organized faiths are strictly controlled by the state.

    The Chinese government eyes the rise of Christianity with suspicion, as it believes that Christianity could be a vehicle to spread subversive “Western values.”

    The state has been cracking down on the religion in recent years.

    The campaign, which started in 2014, has been most noticeable in the southeastern province of Zhejiang.

    Up to early 2016, government officials removed around 1,800 crosses from Protestant churches in Zhejiang, according to Christian advocacy group China Aid.

    GRACE TSOI
    GRACE TSOI
    arrow rightarrow right
    Grace is a senior multimedia producer at Inkstone. She was previously a senior producer for BBC Chinese.

    XINYAN YU
    XINYAN YU
    arrow rightarrow right
    Xinyan is a senior multimedia producer at Inkstone based in Beijing. Previously, she was a producer at BBC News.

    GRACE TSOI
    GRACE TSOI
    arrow rightarrow right
    Grace is a senior multimedia producer at Inkstone. She was previously a senior producer for BBC Chinese.

    XINYAN YU
    XINYAN YU
    arrow rightarrow right
    Xinyan is a senior multimedia producer at Inkstone based in Beijing. Previously, she was a producer at BBC News.

    arrow right
      Rotate the screen
      Please rotate for best experience.
      Your privacy is important. We wish to inform you what data we collect from you and how we process such data. Our Privacy Notice aims to comply with all relevant data privacy and protection laws. You should read the Privacy Notice in full here.