CHINESE state media has vehemently denied foreign media reports of crackdown against local Christians and Bible sales as “groundless”.
Last week it was widely reported that China was intensifying its crackdown against Chinese Christians as Chinese netizens noticed that Bibles were disappearing from online book sellers. Freedom House claimed that the ban might have been part of a plan to release a “Sinicised” Bible which fits more closely with the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) worldview.
— William Nee (@williamnee) April 3, 2018
“Some Netizens have been spreading rumours that China has banned the Bible or that the country is compiling its own version of the Bible or that Christianity is under a crackdown,” said an article in the Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times on Saturday. “All these sayings are groundless.”
Chinese Christians were having “no problem” acquiring Bibles, added the article.
Chinese Christian communities have grown significantly since the death of Chairman Mao in 1976. Some have even estimated that it could become the nation with the largest Christian population by 2030, growth that the CCP views as a threat.
The New York Times first reported last Thursday that major online retailers like JD.com, Taobao and Amazon had removed Bibles from their stores, responding to measures aimed at limiting Bible sales announced by the government.
Religious freedom is one of our most precious rights, one that should be enjoyed by all no matter where they are born. The Government of China banning online sales of the Bible is an assault on their citizens’ freedoms & on Christianity. Read more, here: https://t.co/YW9GzZIISE
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) April 6, 2018
The article claimed that out of China’s major religions including Buddhism, Islam and Taoism, Christianity was the only one whose holy book was unable to be bought through conventional commercial channels.
The United States’ Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley tweeted that the removal of the Bible from online stores was an “assault on their citizens’ freedoms” and on Christianity.
Bibles can indeed only be sold through churches, not bookstores, explained Global Times report. Some online book retailers had “circumvented this rule”, it said.
“Some Western forces and media love to meddle in China’s Christian affairs by misinterpreting government policies and instigating confrontations,” wrote the newspaper.
“They seem to be promoting a concept that Christian activities should follow Western practices instead of conforming to China’s social reality and governance.” Christianity in China should “integrate” with local culture because Western ideas were not “conductive to the harmony” of society, it added.
The controversy came as China released a White Paper on “protecting freedom of religious belief” in the officially atheist state.
“China has printed over 160 million copies of the Bible in more than 100 different languages for over 100 countries and regions, including 80 million copies printed in the Chinese language, 11 ethnic minority languages and braille for churches in China,” claimed the document.
The Chinese government has also recently conducted negotiations with the Vatican over the appointment of bishops, which is believed could eventually lead to diplomatic relations between Beijing and the Holy See.