China has removed sales of the bible from online stores as it looks to further clampdown on how citizens practice religion.
It had previously only allowed for the holy book to be distributed and printed by state-sanctioned churches but in recent years it has been available to buy online at some of the world’s largest online stores.But now searches for “Holy Bible” on JD.com - one of the largest online retailers in China - didn’t return any results while those on Amazon.cn didn’t include the main text, but did include study guides and the Koran.
Baby food bible
On Taoboa, the country’s biggest online marketplace - a search returned results for the “baby food bible” and the “autoimmune disease healing bible”, but not the Christian scripture, although related products included an illustrated set of children’s Bible stories are still available. The Chinese government has always enforced tight controls over religious practice in the country, with the five recognised faiths - Chinese Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism and Taoism - supervised by official organisations including the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church or the Buddhist Association of China.
Sarah Cook, senior research analyst for East Asia at Freedom House, told CNN a sales ban “is an important example of how internet censorship intersects with restrictions on religious freedom”.
“Sensitive religious topics and groups are among the most censored in China. “In our research we found the Chinese authorities increasingly using more high-tech methods to control religion and punish believers -- including surveillance and arrest of believers for sharing information online.”
The State Administration for Religious Affairs has published a five-year plan on Christianity in China, which states the "principle of independence and self-management" is important due to the "humiliating history of the Chinese people" and the use of Christianity by the powers of "colonialism and imperialism”.