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Bible rewrite stokes censorship fears in China

Hong Kong (UCAN): “With the implementation of the revised regulations on religious affairs, the religious world on the Internet will surely become a target in the next wave of rectification,” said Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the divinity school of Chung Chi College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, as Catholic groups expressed concern that Beijing will bring its heavy Internet censorship squarely into the world of religious literature, including a state-sponsored re-working of the Bible, and materials both physically and on the Internet after the Chinese government banned online Bible sales.
Ying believes that the new era of president, Xi Jinping, will target online circulation of the Bible, religious books and other religious publications.
According to the document, Principle for Promoting Chinese Christianity in China for the Next Five Years (2018-2022), released on March 28 by China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs, one of the biggest tasks in the coming years is to enhance “Chinese-style Christianity and theology” by reinterpreting and re-translating the Bible.
Some social media users said Bibles started coming down from websites on March 30.
The date coincides with a massive spike in the keyword search Bible on Chinese social media platform Weibo the day before, followed by a sharp nosedive to zero on April 1, when the word may have been censored.
The document also states that one of the main tasks for the next five years will be to build up Chinese Christianity and Chinese theology in order to “consciously develop Bible study talents to lay a solid foundation for reinterpreting and re-translating the Bible or writing the reference books.”
Some Catholics are worried that books and material about the Church may also be targeted as the mistakes of the Cultural Revolution are repeated.
Authorities ordered e-commerce and micro-commerce businesses to remove the Bible from their product lists and ban its sale from March 30.
Taobao, Jingdong, Weidian, Dangdang and Amazon China are no longer selling the Bible. Books about Christianity have also been blocked and the business licenses of some shops have been cancelled.   
Christian online shopping platform Baojiayin has also stopped selling the Bible but said it would be legally able to sell reference books that may help customers read the Bible.  
John, a Catholic Internet user, said the Bible had never been allowed to be sold in shops or online on the mainland and one could only buy the officially approved version from the government-sanctioned official Church. However, authorities had not strictly enforced the law in the past.
“The next step may be a large-scale clean-up of Church materials on the internet,” he said.      
He said that after the plenary meetings of the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference ended recently, a new round of oppression was launched against Christian churches.
“One senses that authorities are stepping up their suppression of religions, especially against the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church,” he said.
He believes that this “religious Sinicisation” is advocated by Xi and is worried that the Cultural Revolution will return. “Isn’t it repeating the same mistake of history?” he asked.
Ying posted an article on his Facebook page recalling that after the Cultural Revolution there was a serious shortage of Bibles in China.

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