Bitter Winter: Xi Jinping’s new restrictions on religious internet content in effect March 2022

Xi Jinping and other leaders vote to restrict religious content online
(Photo: Weibo)

Crackdown on Religious Content on the Internet Coming March 1, 2022

by

Hu Zimo

(Bitter Winter—December 29, 2021) A recent legislative decision by the Chinese Communist Party will severely restrict religious content on the internet for Chinese citizens. Bitter Winter reported extensively on the new law. Read the full article and translated legislation below:

This month of December, new Administrative Measures for Internet Religious Information Services were promulgated by the State Administration of Religious Affairs, the National Internet Information Office, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of National Security. They will come into force on March 1, 2022.

The Measures follows complaints by President Xi Jinping that prohibitions against using the Internet to “advertise” religion are easily eluded, and more should be done to make sure that the Internet and social networks are not used as tools for “religious propaganda.”

The Measures require an “Internet Religious Information Service License,” which can only be granted to organizations part of the five authorized religions (since they should be “legally established,” which is only possible within the five government-controlled organization), to disseminate religious content via the Internet. Any other reference to religion on the web is declared illegal.

Even the organizations within the five authorized religions are subject to surveillance and limitations. They can broadcast sermons and lessons, but these would be checked by the authorities for their “Sinicized” content, making sure they promote Socialist values and support the Party, and are not intended as proselytization tools. Religious universities and colleges may disseminate contents via the Internet only to their students. Any attempt to spread religious content to minors or “induce minors to believe in religion” will lead to the termination of the license.

Organizations which will not obtain the license, and individuals, may not disseminate any religious content or even allusions through the Internet. Sharing images or comments on “religious ceremonies such as worshiping Buddha, burning incense, taking ordination, chanting, worship, mass, and baptisms” will be severely prohibited.

Xi Jinping asked for a crackdown on religious contents on the Internet. It is coming to your computer, on March 1, 2022.

An English translation of the Measures follow.

 

 

Chapter One: General Provisions

  Article 1. To regulate Internet religious information services and protect citizens’ freedom of religious belief, these measures are formulated in accordance with the Network Security Law of the People’s Republic of China, the Internet Information Service Management Measures, the Regulations on Religious Affairs, and other laws and regulations.


  Article 2. These Measures apply to Internet religious information services within the territory of the People’s Republic of China.


  Internet religious information services mentioned in these Measures include Internet religious information publishing services, reprinting services, dissemination platform services, and other services related to Internet religious information.


  Article 3. Engaging in Internet religious information services shall abide by the Constitution, laws, regulations and rules, practice the core socialist values, adhere to the principle of independence and self-management of religions in China, adhere to the direction of the Sinicization of religions in China, and actively guide religions to adapt to socialist society, to maintain religious harmony, social harmony, and national harmony.


  Article 4. The management of Internet religious information services adheres to the principles of protecting lawfulness, stopping illegality, restraining extremism, resisting infiltration, and fighting crime.


  Article 5. Religious affairs departments shall supervise and manage Internet religious information services in accordance with the law, and cybersecurity and informatization departments, telecommunications authorities, public security agencies, and national security agencies shall be responsible for relevant administrative management within their respective responsibilities.


  Religious affairs departments of people’s governments at or above the provincial level shall, in conjunction with cybersecurity and informatization departments, telecommunications authorities, public security agencies, and national security agencies, establish a coordination mechanism for the management of Internet religious information services.


  Chapter Two:  Internet Religious Information Service License

  Article 6. Offering through the Internet religious doctrines, rules, religious knowledge, and religion in the form of texts, pictures, audio and video, etc. through Internet sites, applications, forums, blogs, microblogs, public accounts, instant messaging tools, webcasts, etc. is only allowed if an Internet religious information service license has been previously obtained, which will only be possible at the following conditions:


  (1) The applicant is am organization with or without legal personality legally established within the territory of the People’s Republic of China, and its legal representative or main person in charge is a mainland resident with Chinese nationality;


  (2) There are information reviewers who are familiar with national religious policies and regulations and relevant religious knowledge;


  (3) The organization has a sound Internet religious information service management system;


  (4) The organization has a sound information security management system and safe and controllable technical safeguard measures;


  (5) The organization has places, facilities and funds that match the service;


  (6) The applicant organization and its legal representative or main person in charge shall have no criminal record or conduct in violation of the relevant regulations of the state’s management of religious affairs in the past three years.


  Overseas organizations or individuals, even if resident in China, are not allowed to engage in Internet religious information services in China.


  Article 7. To engage in Internet religious information services, one shall apply to the Religious affairs department of the people’s government of the province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government where it is located, fill in an application form for Internet religious information service license, and submit the following materials:


  (1) The applicant’s legally established or registered materials and the ID card of the legal representative or the main person in charge;


  (2) Names of religious information review personnel participating in the education and training of religious policies and regulations, and related religious knowledge, and a description of their ability to review the content to be disseminated;


  (3) Information about the organization’s Internet religious information service management system, security management system, and technical safeguard measures materials;


  (4) Description of the places, facilities, and funds used to engage in Internet religious information services;


  (5) Proof that the applicant and his/her legal representative or main person in charge have no criminal record and no violation of the state’s relevant regulations on the management of religious affairs in the past three years;


  (6) Technical specifications, function settings, and domain name registration related materials of the organization willing to be engaged in Internet religious information services.


  Those who apply for the provision of Internet religious information dissemination platform services shall also submit the platform’s registered user management rules and regulations, user agreement templates, complaints and reports handling mechanisms, etc. The content of the template user agreement involving Internet religious information services shall comply with the relevant provisions of these Measures.


  The format of the application form for Internet religious information services is formulated by the State Administration of Religious Affairs.


  National religious groups and their religious institutions engaged in Internet religious information services should apply to the State Administration of Religious Affairs.


  Article 8. The names used for Internet religious information services shall not be the names of religious groups, religious schools, religious activities venues, etc., except to indicate the names of the applicants, and shall not contain content prohibited by laws and administrative regulations.


  Article 9 The religious affairs department of the people’s government at or above the provincial level shall decide on approval or disapproval within 20 days from the date of acceptance of the application. If the approval decision is made, the Internet Religious Information Service License shall be issued; if a non-approval decision is made, the applicant shall be notified in writing and the reasons shall be explained.


  The Internet Religious Information Service License is printed by the State Administration of Religious Affairs.


  After the applicant obtains the Internet Religious Information Service License, it shall also go through relevant procedures in accordance with the relevant provisions of the state’s Internet information service management.


  Article 10. To engage in Internet religious information services, the serial number of the Internet Religious Information Service License shall be clearly displayed in a prominent position.


  Article 11. After the applicant obtains the Internet Religious Information Service License, if a major matter affects the licensing conditions, it shall be reported to the original license-issuing authority for review and approval; other changes shall be filed with the original license-issuing authority.


  Article 12. Organizations that want to cease their Internet religious information services shall go through the cancellation procedures with the original issuing authority within 30 days from the date of termination.


  Article 13. The Internet Religious Information Service License is valid for three years. Those who intend to continue to engage in Internet religious information services after the expiration of the validity period shall re-apply to the original issuing authority 30 days before the expiration of the validity period.


  Chapter Three: Internet Religious Information Service Management

  Article 14. Internet religious information must not contain the following content:


  (1) Using religion to incite subversion of state power, oppose the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, undermine the socialist system, national unity, national unity and social stability, and promote extremism, terrorism, national separatism, and religious fanaticism;


  (2) Using religion to obstruct the implementation of the state’s judicial, education, marriage, and social management systems;


  (3) Using religion to promote xie jiao and feudal superstition, or use religion to damage citizens’ health, deceive or coerce, or obtain property;


  (4) Violating the principle of religious independence and self-management in our country;


  (5) Destroying the harmony between different religions, within the same religion, and between religious citizens and non-religious citizens;


  (6) Discriminating or insulting religious or non-religious citizens, and harming the lawful rights and interests of religious or non-religious citizens;


  (7) Engaging in illegal religious activities or providing assistance for illegal religious activities;


  (8) Inducing minors to believe in religion, or organizing or forcing minors to participate in religious activities;


  (9) Conducting commercial propaganda in the name of religion, distributing and sending religious articles, religious internal information publications and illegal publications;


  (10) Impersonating religious clerics to carry out religious activities;


  (11) Other content prohibited by relevant laws, administrative regulations and state regulations.


  Article 15. Religious groups, religious schools, and temples and churches that have obtained the Internet Religious Information Service License can only use, use their own Internet sites, applications, forums, etc., owned by their religious clerics and religious institutions. School teachers give lectures, explain doctrines and rules that are conducive to social harmony, progress, health and civilization, and guide religious citizens to love the country and abide by the law. Personnel participating in preaching and sermonizing should use real names.


  Article 16. Religious colleges and universities that have obtained the Internet Religious Information Service License can, and are limited to, use their own dedicated Internet sites, applications, forums, etc., to conduct religious activities for students at religious colleges and religious staff in the fields of education and training. Private Internet sites, applications, forums, etc. must use a virtual private network to connect to the outside world, and verify the identity of personnel participating in education and training.


  Article 17. Except for the circumstances stipulated in Article 15 and Article 16 of these Measures, no organization or individual may upload teachings on the Internet, conduct religious education and training, publish lectures and sermons, or forward or link religion-related content. Religious activities shall not be organized and carried out on the Internet, and religious ceremonies such as worshiping Buddha, burning incense, taking ordination, chanting, worship, mass, and baptism shall not be broadcasted live or recorded in the form of text, pictures, audio and video.


  Article 18. No organization or individual may establish religious organizations, establish religious schools and venues for religious activities, or develop followers on the Internet.


  Article 19. No organization or individual may conduct fundraising in the name of religion on the Internet.


  Charitable organizations initiated and established by religious groups, religious schools, and religious activity venues that want to conduct charitable fundraising on the Internet shall comply with the relevant provisions of the Charity Law of the People’s Republic of China.


  Article 20. Those who provide Internet religious information dissemination platform services shall sign an agreement with registered users of the platform to verify their true identity information.


  Article 21. Internet information dissemination platforms that have not obtained the Internet Religious Information Service License shall strengthen the management of registered users of the platform, and shall not provide users with Internet religious information publishing services.


  Article 22. Anyone who engages in Internet religious information services and discovers information that violates the provisions of these Measures shall immediately stop the transmission of the information, take disposal measures such as elimination, prevent the spread of the information, save relevant records, and report to the relevant competent authority.


  Article 23. Religious affairs departments shall strengthen daily guidance, supervision, and inspection of Internet religious information services, establish Internet religious information service violation files, list targets for joint punishment for dishonesty, prepare interview systems, and strengthen online religious information surveillance, provide professional training, accept reports on illegal Internet religious information services, research and suppress unauthorized Internet religious information, and work with cybersecurity and informatization departments, telecommunications authorities, public security agencies, and national security agencies to deal with illegal acts in accordance with the law.


  Article 24. The cybersecurity and informatization department shall strengthen the management of Internet information content and deal with illegal Internet religious information in accordance with the law.


  Article 25. The competent department of telecommunications shall strengthen the supervision of the Internet industry, and cooperate in dealing with illegal Internet religious information services in accordance with the law.


  Article 26. Public security organs shall strengthen the safety supervision and management of Internet information services in accordance with the law, and prevent and deal with illegal and criminal activities in Internet religious information services.


  Article 27. National security agencies shall guard against and deal with foreign institutions, organizations, and individuals, as well as domestic institutions, organizations, and individuals colluding with foreign institutions, organizations, and individuals, to use religion to conduct activities that endanger national security on the Internet.


  Chapter Four: Legal Liability

  Article 28. If the applicant conceals the relevant information or provides false materials to apply for the Internet religious information service license, the religious affairs department shall not accept or grant the license, and the license shall be revoked according to law and a warning shall be given if the license has been granted.


  Those who engage in Internet religious information services without authorization shall be ordered by the religious affairs department in conjunction with the competent telecommunications department to stop relevant service activities in accordance with their duties.


  Article 29. Violation of Article 10, Article 11, Article 14, Article 15, Article 16, Article 17, Article 18, Article 19 of these Measures shall be examined by the Religious affairs departments, which shall order corrections within a time limit; if the guilty parties refuse to make corrections, they shall be punished in accordance with relevant laws and administrative regulations in conjunction with network information departments, telecommunications authorities, public security organs, and national security organs.


  Article 30. If a registered user of the Internet religious information dissemination platform violates the provisions of these Measures, the religious affairs department, in conjunction with the cybersecurity and informatization department, and the public security organs, shall order the provider of the Internet religious information dissemination platform to take warnings, rectifications, restrict functions, and close accounts in accordance with the law.


  Article 31. Anyone who violates the provisions of these Measures and also violates the Administrative Measures on Internet Information Services and the state’s relevant regulations on Internet news information services, Internet audio-visual program services, online publishing services, etc. shall be punished by the religious affairs department and the Internet information department. Telecommunication authorities, public security organs, radio and television authorities, film authorities, publishing authorities, etc. shall be dealt with in accordance with the law.


  Article 32. State functionaries who abuse their power, neglect their duties, or engage in malpractice for personal gains in the management of Internet religious information services shall be punished in accordance with the law.


  Article 33. Anyone who violates the provisions of these Measures and violates public security management shall be given public security management penalties according to law; if a crime is suspected, criminal responsibility shall be investigated according to law.


  Chapter 5: Supplementary Provisions

  Article 34. Those who have engaged in Internet religious information services before the implementation of these Measures shall go through relevant procedures in accordance with the relevant provisions of these Measures within six months from the date of implementation of these Measures.


  Article 35. The State Administration of Religious Affairs, the State Internet Information Office, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of National Security are responsible for the interpretation of these Measures.


  Article 36 These Measures shall come into effect on March 1, 2022.


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