(Beijing, China) On February 8, attorney Huang Deqi penned an article, “Where Does Faith Go in the Era of Internet Closure?—On the Administrative Measures of Internet Religious Information.” Huang works for Shanghai Tiancheng Law Firm and has filed many cases about Christians persecuted for their faith. He posted his article on WeChat and pointed out that the Administrative Measures of Internet Religious Information will be in effect on March 1. He argued that the measures not only violate the PRC’s Constitution but also multiple international conventions that the Chinese government has signed. The article was deleted by Tencent, a Chinese media conglomerate, a few hours later.
On December 20, 2021, the People’s Republic of China State Bureau of Religious Affairs posted the Administrative Measures of Internet Religious Information on its website. The “measures” were jointly formulated by five departments, including the State Bureau of Religious Affairs, the National Internet Information Office, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of State Security.
These new measures stipulate that all information relating to religion on all social media platforms and independent media should be posted with the authorization of the Chinese government beginning March 1st, 2022. If religious events on the internet (all words, images, videos relating to religion are regarded as religious events) are not approved by authorities, telecommunication companies that provide the internet service should cooperate with religion departments and public security departments to enforce the law and stop their internet service. That is, to shut down the internet service. If an individual or organization posts religious events without permission or the official license, they will be categorized as people with no social credit score.
Attorney Huang wrote in his article:
First, we should know that the [measures are] rules by a department of the State Council, its power is lower than the Constitution drafted by the National People’s Congress and its Standing Committee and laws and administrative regulations formulated by the State Council. In other words, its rules should not be against its upper-level laws—Constitutions, laws, and administrative regulations. According to international laws, however, the international conventions, which the National People’s Congress and the Chinese government have approved and signed, have a corresponding force of law. Therefore, the [measures] as rules by a department of the State Council should be in line with the international conventions China has agreed on[...] It is the citizens’ freedom of religion to express their religious beliefs on the internet. Laws and administrative regulations do not restrict citizens’ freedom of expressing their religious beliefs on the internet, but the rules by these departments shamelessly restrict citizens’ fundamental rights by setting administrative authorization, which abuses and oversteps authority.
As the measures were announced, it made Christians and other religious minorities panic, and some WeChat groups with a religious name either changed names or disbanded. It is circulated online that national security officers called believers and threatened them not to talk about faith online nor record sentences with religious words. There is another rumor among believers: they cannot talk about religion and faith online in the future. The measures indicate that the Chinese government has dramatically tightened its control on religion. Implementing these new regulations will severely strip and crackdown on freedom of speech and religion which is protected by the PRC Constitution.
~Yu Bing, ChinaAid Contributing Reporter