As of April 1st, 2018, Chinese Holy Bibles are no longer available for sale online, as demanded by the Chinese government. According to a report by the by the New York Times, the Chinese government has banned all online sales of the Christian Bible. China’s biggest retailers have already stopped offering the book and sales are now only permitted at official Church bookstores in China. The Times report suggests that the recent move shows President Xi Jinping’s efforts to promote traditional values and regulate the influence of both Christianity and the West. The Bible is the only holy text currently banned from being sold online while other religious texts remain available.
The distribution of the Bible has always been restricted in China, unlike the Koran and the Buddhist Sutras, which are permitted to be freely sold both online and in bookstores. The Chinese Holy Bible is restricted to the distribution solely by the government-held churches. The Bible cannot be obtained through public channels such as bookstores.
Since 1987 the Episcopal Church of America has donated the royalties, paper and printing machines necessary for making the Bible affordable for Chinese citizens. The standard Bible is less than a dollar.
Many Chinese Christians are concerned because the proclamation which banned the online sale of Bibles gave no indication of the reason behind this restrictive measure against the distribution of the Bible.
In China, if you choose to worship God, you are accepting you will be watched by the police. The church and these growing congregations have been accused of undermining devotion to the Communist Party. With president Xi warning they could be a conduit for foreign infiltration.
More and more Chinese people are turning to Christianity despite a government crackdown. New laws have been introduced which give the state greater control over religious meetings, their message, and their members.
In January in Shanxi province ordered the Golden Lamp Church to be demolished, a building permit violation was used as justification for blowing it up. Hundreds of churches have been destroyed or closed and thousands of others have had their crosses forcefully removed. Still, every week more Christians are being baptized.
Some Chinese web users speculate that it’s part of a movement intending to incorporate Chinese characteristics into Christianity. Some suspect that the tight restriction of the Bible distribution is to provide room for the government to “fix the current translation of the Bible”. The Chinese Union version translated in 1919 in order to incorporate traditional Chinese cultural and socialist core values into the Bible.
There are five recognized religions in China, with a total of 200 million believers. With Catholics and Protestants accounting for six million and thirty million respectively. Those calculations are based only on the formal registered community, some estimate that the number of Christians in China could reach 247 million by 2030, making it the world’s largest congregation.
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