by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – China’s Communist regime has announced harsh new restrictions to online religious activities, effectively banning online church services for Chinese believers that are not part of the state-approved Three-Self church movement, International Christian Concern (ICC) reports. The move follows China’s prior banning of in-person religious gatherings, supposedly due to the pandemic.
The State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) in China announced the new restrictions on December 20, ICC said. Titled Measures for the Administration of Internet Religious Information Service, the restrictions will take effect on March 1, 2022.
According to the state-owned Chinese newspaper Global Times, the new rules state: “Any Chinese organization or individual that operates online religious information services should submit an application to provincial religious affairs departments.” Online preaching can only be carried out by religious organizations that have obtained an Internet Religious Information Service Permit, ICC said. Services cannot be broadcast live or online. No foreign organizations or individuals can operate online religious information services in China.
In particular, any religious activity must be careful not to “incite subversion of state power, oppose the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership, undermine the socialist system, national unity, and social stability,” ICC reports. Moreover, the internet cannot be used to “induce minors to become religious, organize them, or force them to participate in religious activities.”
Explaining the impact of the new measures, Pastor Zheng Leguo, a US-based house church leader originally from China’s Wenzhou, told ICC, “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. The new measures, in actuality, are banning all forms of religious activities.”
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