Chinese messaging app censors the word “Christ”

The word “Christ” was banned in the WeChat app
(Photo: ChinaAid source)

(China—April 4, 2022) Since
the Chinese Communist Party’s “Measures for the Administration of Internet
Religious Information Services” came into effect on March 1, Christian WeChat
accounts and groups became the main area of suppression. Early Rain Covenant
Church’s Ran Yunfei has a WeChat group called “How to read.” Group members
recommended book titles and voted on them with WeChat’s built-in voting. During
the most recent round, group members recommended the following books:


·      
The Defense of the Faith by Cornelius Van Til


·      
The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius


·      
Philosophy of Revelation by Herman Bavinck


·      
Tradition and the Individual Talent by T. S. Eliot


·      
The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism
by Peter Drucker


·      
The Fate of Russia by Nikolai Berdyaev


·      
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis


·      
Exposition of the Christian Faith by Saint Ambrose

 

However, the voting was not
able to pass WeChat’s censorship, showing the following message:

 

“The
word ‘Christ’ you are trying to publish violates regulations on Internet
Information Services, including but not limited to the following categories:

·       pornography,
gambling, and drug abuse

·       excessive
marketing

·       incitement

 

The
issue can be resolved through one of the following:

1.   Edit
your content

2.   Submit
for review”  

 


Unfortunately, the group
administrator had to replace part of the word “Christ” to pass censorship.

 

This WeChat reading group was
established five years ago. Group members read through one book a month. At the end of each month, Ran Yunfei sends out audio messages to help
other members better understand the reading. On February 11, before the new
measures took effect, he and many Christians were temporarily banned from
posting on WeChat. Christian lawyer Zhang Peihong’s WeChat account was permanently deleted. 

One WeChat user must replace part of the word “Christ” to bypass censorship
(Photo: ChinaAid source)

On December 20, 2021, China’s
State Administration for Religious Affairs published the “Measures for the
Administration of Internet Religious Information Services” on its official
website. It was created through joint efforts of five departments: State
Administration for Religious Affairs, Cyberspace Administration of China, Ministry
of Industry and Information Technology, Ministry of Public Security, and
Ministry of State Security.

 

According to the regulations
set forth from the administrative measures, no organization or individual may
conduct any religious information service on the Internet unless permission is
obtained from a provincial government department. It also explicitly listed
permissive conditions, required documents, application processing time, and so on.
Only religious groups, schools, and organizations with valid permits can
conduct online sermons. Unless the conditions specified by article 15 and
article 16 are met, no organization and individual may teach on the Internet,
conduct religious education and training, publish sermons, repost or link
related content, organize religious activities on the Internet, or live
broadcast or record and
broadcast religious ceremonies. No organization or individual may raise funds
on the Internet in the name of religion.

 

According to the measures, prior administrative authorization is required before any religious content can
be published on any social media or self-media. If Internet religious
activities (text, pictures, and videos related to religion are treated as
religious activities) happen without prior administrative authorization, the Internet
Service Provider must cooperate with religious affairs departments and public
security organs to terminate the service; individuals and organizations who
perform online religious activities without an “Internet Religious Information
Service License” shall be listed as untrustworthy individuals or organizations.

 

Each province has started
accepting applications for permits while accepting applications for “Information
Censorship” training. These seminars improve a religious information auditor’s
ability to censor religious information and ensure religious information on the
Internet conforms to the central government’s political requirements. The
trainers must be students or faculties of a registered official religious school
and pass a background check.

 

The government plans to grant
the “Internet Religious Information Service License” to registered official
religious groups, religious schools, and religious venues that complete the
training.

 

The content posted by these
individuals, groups, or organizations must conform to the government’s political agendas
like “harmonious society, advancement of the times, healthy and civilized”, and
must guide believers to “love the country and abide by the law”.

 

Anyone who posts content with
the purpose of “inciting the state power using religion”, “objecting to the
Chinese Communist Party’s leadership,” “obstructing the socialism system,”
“damaging national reunification,” or “harming the unity of various ethnic groups
and social stability” shall be punished.

 

Online religious preachers must
be registered with authorities.

 

Each province started exams for
the new license in mid-March.

 

 

 

~Yu Bing, ChinaAid Special Reporter

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