BEIJING (BP) – As the Winter Olympics in Beijing approach, China is set to impose new restrictions on online religious content that will essentially outlaw evangelistic Scripture just days after the games conclude, according to Christian persecution watchdog China Aid.
“If you promote Gospel spreading, John 3:16, or the Great Commission of Matthew 28,” said China Aid Founder and President Bob Fu, “these are all regarded as conversion of state power, because you are essentially spreading messages for other persons to believe and to encourage others to share the Gospel.”
The new law, Measures for the Administration of Internet Religious Information, takes effect March 1 as China enters the fourth year of its five-year plan to Sinicize Christianity, Fu said in the Jan. 31 issue of the Bob Fu Report.
“If you post any religious-related content on the Internet without a license, it’s declared totally illegal,” Fu said. Christian House Churches are excluded from applying for licenses. Worship songs and Sunday School discipleship material are among restricted content, with sermons and other messages to be examined for compatibility with communist dogma. Even tithing is criminalized, Fu said.
“It is illegal for those who are under 18 years old receive any religious education in any form online,” Fu said. Content eligible for submission for approval is limited to Sinicized content from five religions the Chinese Communist Party recognizes, namely the Sinicized Three-Self Church brand of Protestantism, Catholicism, Daoism, Buddhism and Islam, Fu said.
China ranks 17th on the Open Doors 2022 Watch List of countries where it is most difficult for Christians to practice their faith. China is a leader in using artificial intelligence to monitor Christians, threatening all areas of their livelihoods.
Open Doors CEO David Curry, among others, has said China is using the Olympics for propaganda as it continues to persecute Christians and other religious minorities.
The Olympics “are but one example of how China is using sports, money and investment in infrastructure around the world to whitewash their human rights violations. We must and we have to and we must see this for what it is,” Curry said upon the release of the 2022 World Watch List.
“Slowly, ever so slowly, inch by inch, this noose is tightening around religious faith in China. New laws are being passed to enforce and restrict the teachings of Jesus,” Curry said. “There’s no more precious book to Christians than the Bible, and this aggression is most grave.”
The new restrictions on online religious content, Curry said, will subject the nearly 100 million Christians in China “to Bibles that have key elements removed or changed because they conflict with Communist dogma. Only groups that recognize the Communist Party of China and their censorship over sermons and Bibles will be allowed to distribute the Scripture.”
Through government pressure, about 80 percent of churches have fractured into small groups, gone underground or gone online, Open Doors estimated. The watchdog group counts about 96.7 million Christians in China’s population of 1.43 billion people.
Several nations including the U.S. have invoked a diplomatic boycott of the games, pointing to China’s organized persecution of Uyghur Muslims and other human rights abuses.
In concert with the diplomatic boycott, international Christian evangelism group Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is calling Christians to pray for China during the games.
“The Olympics are always filled with wonderful pageantry and inspiring athletic accomplishments. But let’s not forget what the host government doesn’t want us to see: imprisoned pastors, destroyed church buildings and a complete lack of religious freedom,” VOM spokesman Todd Nettleton said. “I hope every Christian will use each event and every Olympic update as a reminder to pray for our persecuted family members in China as the Scriptures instruct us to do.”
Nettleton encouraged Christians to pray for church leaders to stand firmly for biblical truth in spite of government pressure, that Chinese believers will be encouraged and united in fellowship, and that the Gospel will be spread among local and national Chinese[DC1] Communist officials.
Fu joined more than 240 human rights groups in a statement urging additional governments to join the boycott.
Religious liberty watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide is among signatories.
“These games are taking place during a period of intense repression of fundamental human rights in the Uyghur Region, Tibet, Hong Kong, and even the very city where the games will take place,” Christian Solidarity Worldwide Founder and President Meryvn Thomas said in signing the statement.
“Across China, human rights lawyers have been disbarred, banned from leaving the country, detained and tortured and Christians and other religious communities are facing unprecedented restrictions on their online religious activities even as their physical meeting spaces are shut down.”