Beijing bans online evangelization
by Bernardo Cervellera

As of yesterday there are "New measures" for the control of online religious activities. Live streaming of  religious ceremonies  banned, as well as prayers, preaching and burning of incense. Permission required to set up religious websites that must be 'morally healthy and politically reliable'. Conversions banned as well as the dissemination of religious material. But the religious awakening in China is now unstoppable.

Rome (AsiaNews) - From now on, all online evangelization is forbidden. The state administration for religious affairs yesterday issued rules on religious activities via the internet that forbid the streaming of religious ceremonies (live on the internet), including prayer, preaching and even burning incense.

The new rules also prohibit some sensitive content: it is forbidden to post the slightest criticism of the Party's leadership and official religious policy; promote the participation of minors in religious ceremonies, use religion to overthrow the socialist system.

The new rules are published on the Chinese government's legal information website under the heading "Measures for the management of religious information on the Internet". They are still in draft form and await comments from the public, but as is almost always the case, the draft is in practice the final text.

The "Measures ..." are divided into five chapters and contain a total of 35 articles. The five chapters deal with general rules, approval for online religious information services, management, legal responsibilities and some additional provisions.

For example they establish that anyone who wants to open a religious site, must seek permission from the authorities and be judged morally healthy and politically reliable.

Organizations and schools that receive the license can only publish didactic material via the Internet in their internal network, accessible only through a registered name and password. The rules emphasize that such organizations can not try to convert someone, and they cannot distribute religious texts or other material.

The new measures are much more restrictive and analytical than the new regulations on religious activities, implemented last February (but made public in September 2017 in a draft form and in October as the final text).

The New Regulations (see Articles 68 and 45) prohibited content that "undermines" the coexistence of religions and non-religious persons, or that publicize religious extremism, or that do not support the principles of independence and self-government of religions. But they admitted that information and religious material could be distributed to the public, in compliance with the law.

The new "Measures ..." seem to be designed to stop the spread of religious teachings on the internet and nip the growing spiritual interest in Chinese society, where the religious awakening is now unstoppable.

In attempts to halt the tumultuous religious growth in China, President Xi Jinping has launched a "sinicization" campaign to assimilate religions to Chinese culture and above all to subjugate them to the hegemony of the Communist Party, turning them into a political tool.

China is the country with the highest Internet usage, but it is also the place where online information is subject to one of the most efficient and absolute controls.