China targets sales of Bible online and in bookshops amid Vatican talks

Searches for 'the bible' on China's largest e-commerce platforms generate 'no results'

Chinese president Xi Jinping has stringently cracked down on Christianity since coming to power
Chinese president Xi Jinping has stringently cracked down on Christianity since coming to power

Bibles have been pulled from the shelves of online stores and large bookshops across China as Beijing continues to clamp down on how citizens practice religion.

The country has always controlled Bible sales – only permitting it to be distributed and printed by state-sanctioned churches – but it has become possible to buy it online in recent years.

However, the Asian country appears to have cracked down on the loophole, with searches for the Bible on China's largest e-commerce platforms starting to generate "no results" responses.

Taobao, Jingdong, Amazon and DangDang.com are among those platforms which divulged no results for the sacred text.

The apparent elimination of the book comes as tensions emerged between China and Rome over a momentous deal that some perceive to be on the brink of being signed.

The negotiation would give the Vatican greater control over the appointment of bishops in China and would serve to reunify relations between the Vatican and Beijing which deteriorated in 1951.

Chinese officials announced Beijing "has always made real efforts towards" building Vatican relations in a press conference on Tuesday to release a white paper.

The paper, which is the country’s first white paper on religious freedom in more than two decades, outlines how religious beliefs and freedoms are protected in the communist country. It both promised to safeguard religious freedom but also urged religions to acclimatise to a socialist society.

While China's ruling Communist Party is officially atheist the Chinese government recognises Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Protestantism and Catholicism.

Chinese president Xi Jinping, who recently abolished term limits for the Chinese presidency, has stringently cracked down on Christianity since coming to power. Christmas was banned in some universities in the country over December.

But the Bible is not the only book the Chinese government has cracked down on. In March, it emerged the Chinese government banned posts referring to George Orwell’s dystopian satirical novella Animal Farm and the letter ‘N’ in a wide-ranging online censorship crackdown.

The China Digital Times, a California-based site covering China, reported a list of terms blocked from being posted on Chinese website Weibo by government censors includes the letter 'N', Orwell's novels Animal Farm and 1984, and the phrase 'Xi Zedong'.

The latter is a combination of President Xi and former chairman Mao Zedong's names.

Search terms blocked on Sina Weibo, a microblogging site which is China’s equivalent of Twitter, include “disagree”, “personality cult”, “lifelong”, “immortality”, “emigrate”, and “shameless”.

It was not immediately obvious why the ostensibly harmless letter ‘N’ had been banned, but some speculated it may either be being used or interpreted as a sign of dissent. The publication reported that the ban on the letter was only temporary, having ended on 26 February.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in