China, home to more than 70 million Christians, is well known for their strict policies around religion freedom. However, for the first time in over two decades, the Communist Party of China has pledged to protect religious freedoms in the country in a newly released white paper written by the State Council.
While pledging to these protections, the white paper, however, also notes that all religions should do what they must to adapt to China’s government.
However, while claiming to protect religious freedom, almost immediately, Bible began to disappear from online bookstores in the region. Major websites such as Alibaba’s Taobao, JD.com, and Amazon China pulled the Bible from their shelves.
An anonymous Bejing resident stated that she bought a copy of the Bible online last year from Taobao, where they are no longer available. The shop owner stated that the removal was forced, but did not give a specific reason.
Another Chinese citizen from the Zhejiang province said that he and his church had purchased copies of the Bible from online stores in the past, but that is not possible now. He said, “Now our country is extremely strict about religious control, and you can’t buy [the Bible] online.” He and his fellow churchgoers are forced to smuggle Bibles in from Hong Kong.
Some Chinese citizens took to sites like Twitter and Weibo to share their experience with the removal of the Bible. Some claimed that other shop owners were also forced to remove the Bible from their shelves.
Not all religious books were removed as the Quran was still available on big sites like Taobao, Amazon China, and Dangdang. When contacted about the book, the four companies would not reply to comment.
Even though the State Council made a public announcement that they would respect freedom of religion and worship, they continue to tighten their grip on the population. From passing a law in September banning religious groups from receiving any foreign funding, to allowing the government to censor all religious content online, the persecution is growing.
The Communist government continues to steadily ramp up their forces by tearing down unauthorized Christian churches across the county and restricting religious education to Muslims.
Meanwhile, the state of Catholicism in China has been rocky ever since they broke off ties with the Holy See in 1951. They appoint their own bishops, which is against Vatican procedure. There is an underground community of churches in China that loyal to Rome, and not the Chinese appointed bishops.
Despite the declaration to protect religious freedoms, China continues down the same path of religious persecution they have been on for years.