In another effort to curtail the growing number of Christians in China, the communist government has banned the online selling of Bibles.
Online merchants such as JD.com, Taobao, and Amazon China have pulled the Bibles from their shelves, reports South China Morning Post. Searching for “the Bible” resulted to a message: “Sorry! No products in this category available.”
A Chinese publishing house revealed that the ban “probably started on March 30.” The source said the Ministry of Culture conducts regular inspections of Christian bookstores, but one store in Beijing was told to stop selling foreign books immediately.
In China, the Bible has been categorized as a publication “for internal distribution.” The government allows the sale of the book through state-recognized Christian churches. Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the Divinity School of Chung Chi College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said “[The ban] was not enforced strictly before.”
A Christian bookstore revealed in its social media account that it received “notice of punishment” warnings. Its merchandise listed online, including the Bible, had been deleted overnight.
Despite the grim situation of online Bible sale, a Chinese bishop, Dong Jianlin, remains optimistic. “But I think the shock will die down gradually, because you just can’t ban the Bible,” he said. “People will always find ways to buy it, such as at state-sanctioned churches.”
William Nee, a researcher for Amnesty International, a London-based human rights organization, said the government should reverse the prohibition, reports Union of Catholic Asian News.
“For a government that just yesterday claimed to be supporting religious freedom, it is ridiculous that the core book of a major world religion — the Bible — cannot be found on the major Chinese e-commerce platforms,” he said.
On April 4, 2018, the Chinese government issued a white paper on religious freedom. The white paper claimed that among the 200 million Chinese who practice religion, 6 million of them are Catholics. However, other reports revealed that China excluded tens of millions of Chinese Christians who practice their faith outside of state-run churches.