On April 4, 2018, the Chinese government issued an official policy paper vowing “protection” for religious freedom – but words and action have proved to be very different.
During a press conference, the State Council Information Office introduced the white paper labeled “China’s Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief.” Ironically, the move comes a mere four days after the country banned the online sale of the Bible.
In September of 2017, the State Council passed legislation banning religious organizations from receiving any foreign funding. Additional regulations concerning religion were implemented in the communist country in February of 2018.
Some religious leaders have voiced concerns that the new rules violate religious freedom. Eric Lai, a Catholic commentator, remarked in March of 2018 that the ruling Communist Party in China desires “to use religion as a tool for stability” in the same manner as other authoritarian governments, such as Russia, utilize it.
The recent white paper labelled China as a “multi-religious country since ancient times.” However, the missive also stated, “active guidance” was required in order for religions to “adapt to socialist society.” Referencing a perceived defect in the policy paper in a piece written for AsiaNews, Bernardo Cervellera said, “it is not an attempt to draw up a map of religions, but to convince the world that the only religions that exist in China are the official ones, allowed by the CCP. For it, religion is a concession from the top of political power, not an innate dimension of man, Chinese or foreign.”
The white paper acknowledged five recognized religions in China. The policy paper purported that 200 million people in the country practice one of these religions.
Of the 200 million worshipers, six million are reportedly Catholics, while another 30 million are Protestants. Providing proof concerning his comments about an alleged flaw in the policy paper statistics, Cervellera said, “it bases its calculations only on official communities, although every religion in China has an unofficial dimension. For Catholics, there are estimated at least 6 million underground faithful; for the Protestants about 60 million.”
In October of 2017, World Watch Monitor documented that some people believe the Christian population in China might reach an astounding 247 million before 2030. If this occurs, China will be the world’s largest Christian congregation.
As of April 5, 2018, online shoppers in China couldn’t purchase the Bible from popular retailers such as Amazon and Taobao, according to the New York Times. However, the Times further reported some stores offered illustrated storybooks and analysis of the Bible. But, this apparent hostility toward Christianity is nothing new in Beijing.
For a long period of time, China’s government has sought to limit the influence of Christianity in the communist country. Besides Christianity, the country’s other major religions include Buddhism, Taoism, folk beliefs, and Islam. Sadly, Christians are the only worshippers who aren’t able to purchase their major holy text through normal commercial channels. While the Bible is printed in the communist country, it can only be legally bought at church bookstores.
The rise of online retail created a loophole that provided people all across China to easily and conveniently buy the Bible. With the recent online ban, the Chinese government has firmly decided to close this loophole that introduced the Bible into numerous Chinese households. Although, one can’t purchase the Bible through online channels in China, residents of the country can still buy Buddhist sutras, the Daodejing, a Taoist classic, and the Quaran online.
More than 1,500 crosses were confiscated from places of worship in an area of China with friendly relations to the communist country’s president Xi Jinping. While persecuting Christians, the Chinese government has seemingly encouraged the practice of religions it deems as more indigenized. For instance, Jinping has spoken positively about the Buddhist faith referring to it as vital to Chinese people’s spiritual and cultural lives. The Chinese government has also promoted folk religious pilgrimages and Taoist music.
Continually pray for Christians in China and all over the world who are being mercilessly persecuted for their faith.
~ 1776 Christian