Bibles can no longer be purchased online in China, despite the government publishing a new document claiming that it allows freedom of worship.
It’s been reported that searches for the Bible on e-commerce sites JD.com and Amazon.cn don’t produce results.
Although China had always controlled sales of the Bible by only allowing it to be distributed and printed by state-sanctioned churches, it had been available to buy online.
The disappearance of Bibles on internet retailers is the latest restriction the country had placed on its fast-growing Christian population.
Religious freedom campaigners have said freedom for Christians in China has been the worst it’s ever been.
The crackdown on Christians in China has meant that crosses have been removed from churches, churches have been demolished, and Christians suspected of worshiping at home have been detained.
A new Chinese government white paper on religious freedoms published this week asserted that all faiths must “adapt themselves to the socialist society”.
The paper listing official Communist Party policies added: “Religious believers and non-believers respect each other, and live in harmony, committing themselves to reform and opening up and the socialist modernization, and contribute to the realization of the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.”
William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, said the Vatican should address the online Bible sale ban with Beijing.
Chinese Catholic bishops and the Vatican have not good relations for decades because Chinese Catholic bishops are not appointed by the Pope.
However, both sides have shown some progress in reconciliation in recent weeks.
Nee said: “[The Vatican] should probably take this issue into consideration in its discussions with their Chinese counterparts, since the banning of the sale of Bibles is obviously a worrying move, demonstrating the worsening state for freedom of religion in China.
“[There is] a broader trend under President Xi Jinping to more tightly control religion, especially Christianity.
“It’s absurd that the government claims to promote religious freedom at the same time that they’re banning the sale of Bibles.”