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Beijing Announces New Measures to Curb ‘Illegal Religious Activities’

12/22/2021 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on December 20, the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) in China announced new measures to curb all forms of religious activities online.

The Measures for the Administration of Internet Religious Information Service, adopted jointly with the Ministry of State Security and other three agencies, will come into effect on March 1, 2022.

China’s state-owned newspaper Global Times shared some of the details of the new rules, such as: “Any Chinese organization or individual that operates online religious information services should submit application to provincial religious affairs departments.”

Online preaching should be organized and carried out by religious groups, temples and churches, and religious colleges that have previously obtained the Internet Religious Information Service Permit.

Religious ceremonies should not be broadcasted live or recorded online. Additionally, no organization or individual can fundraise ‘in the name of religion’ online, according to the measures.

Overseas organizations or individuals and organizations that are set up by foreigners are not allowed to operate online religious information services in China.

In order to conduct religious activities online, the religious content must not “incite subversion of state power, oppose the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership, undermine the socialist system, national unity, and social stability.” Religious groups must not utilize the internet to “induce minors to become religious, organize them, or force them to participate in religious activities.

Pastor Zheng Leguo, a U.S.-based house church leader originally from China’s Wenzhou, told ICC, “The new measures, in actuality, are banning all forms of religious activities. There used to be some space for Sunday services and Bible study to be held online, especially since after the pandemic took place, the state has banned in-person gathering for churches, so Christians began to meet virtually instead.”

He added, “Now, whether online or not, church gatherings have been banned. Even though China claims that the pandemic has been under control, but only few [Three-self] churches are actually allowed to open, which contradicts the easing of [the] pandemic in reality.”

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “Since 2018, Beijing has introduced several regulations with the aim to curb religious activities. From religious organizations, religious venues, religious personnel, to religious education, the CCP intends to control every aspect of a Chinese citizen’s religious life. Knowing that many ‘unregistered religious groups’ such as house churches have shifted their gatherings online due to increased raids and crackdown, The CCP’s latest measure reveals the regime’s determination to crush religious groups that are not vetted by Beijing. China’s religious freedom is further eroded.”

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