|After religious content became illegal online, Chinese Christian websites and groups have been limited or eliminated|
(China—May 18, 2022) The Chinese Communist Party continues to crack down on Christian websites. An online website that served Chinese Christians for 21 years has now completely disappeared. Its domain name servers in mainland China have been blocked, the website has officially announced its closure, and users no longer have access to the site.
A pastor was searching for Christian poetry when he stumbled upon a well-known website,
“Jonah Home.” After clicking on the home page, he found that the website was closed, and a striking text appeared on the homepage:
Due to reasons known to everyone, from now on, this site can no longer serve Brothers and Sisters (in Christ), thank you for your company and support in the past twenty-one years! The disappearance of a website is just the disappearance of a website, and it does not hold any meaning. Nothing else stopped at this moment except that a URL cannot be opened again from this moment forward, so there is no need to have lingering feelings, let’s continue to move forward.
Over the years, this website has kept quite a rich collection of Christian materials. When Chinese readers search for keywords related to Christianity, search engines will quickly detect this website. Its grassroots churches provide hymns (newly edited) of songs and sheet music, which were often widely downloaded and used, as well as other materials, including Bible study materials.
The closure of the “Jonah Home” website is a clear indication of the latest round of crackdowns on Christians’ cyberspace after China promulgated the new “Administrative Measures for Internet Religious Information Services.” The social media platform WeChat, one of the most widely used social applications among Chinese people, has also been directly affected. The WeChat group chats of Christians used to be the central platform for cross-regional communication among believers. Stricter text filtering in WeChat group chats has, however, been implemented, and the two Chinese characters for “intercessory prayer” need to be typed separately (for example: *** intercessory ***prayer ***) in order to avoid censorship checks on the application.
The names of the WeChat group chats have also begun to undergo modifications, and chat admins must try to dilute the usage of words related to the Christian faith or choose something irrelevant for the survival or maintenance of the existing group chat. Even so, there have been reports of Christian group chats that were directly closed.
WeChat accounts of individual users have also been deleted one after another, with warnings appearing: “Access to this webpage has been denied,” and “The webpage contains contents that are illegal or in violation and were complained by many people; in order to maintain a safe internet environment, access has been denied.” Some articles on accounts received a notice of violation in process, stating: “After the platform’s review, this account is suspected of violating relevant laws, regulations, and policies, and the article in violation has been deleted.” Some users have uploaded texts such as “Heavenly Father’s precious” and “Praise the Lord all ye People,” which were classified as sensitive content and restricted from spreading.
The “Christian atmosphere” and exchanges within WeChat groups and on the status sharing timelines are now gone.
The continued tightening of cyberspace controls is a direct result of the Chinese Communist government’s advocacy of the “sinicization of religion” and ideological control in an official capacity. The Administrative Measures for Internet Religious Information Services, which came into effect in March, require any religious group that wishes to distribute religious content on the internet to obtain a “license.” Only “legally established” organizations are allowed to disseminate content after going through training and approval, but all content must also conform to the official ideology. The regulations state that users found in violation might face criminal liability.
This means that only the five authorized official religious groups in China can use the internet to spread religious content. Unauthorized groups such as house churches, unregistered Catholic churches, and other unregistered Christian faith groups are all excluded.
The regulation strictly follows leader Xi Jinping’s directive to prohibit the use of the internet to “promote” religion. In its place is the propaganda of ideologies such as the socialist values promoted by Xi Jinping himself.
Xi Jinping’s government wants more than one billion Chinese people to use only one head; his government wants the Chinese people’s mouths to have only one function: eat, not speak. This tells the world that administrative regulations are higher than the constitution and that authoritarianism and religious freedom are incompatible.
~Gao Zhensai, Special Correspondent of ChinaAid
ChinaAid Media Team
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