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China to enforce new ban on online religious content days after Olympics end

As the Winter Olympics kick off in Beijing, China is getting ready to impose new restrictions on online religious content that will essentially outlaw evangelistic scripture just days after the games draw to a close, according to Christian persecution watchdog China Aid. 

China Aid founder and president said, Bob Fu: “If you promote Gospel spreading, John 3:16, or the Great Commission of Matthew 28, these are all regarded as conversion of state power, because you are essentially spreading messages for other persons to believe and to encourage others to share the Gospel.”

The new law, Measures for the Administration of Internet Religious Information, will come into force on 1 March as China enters the fourth year of its five-year plan to Sinicize Christianity, Fu said in the 31 January issue of the Bob Fu Report.

“If you post any religious-related content on the Internet without a licence, it’s declared totally illegal,” Fu said. Christian House Churches are excluded from applying for licences. Worship songs and Sunday School discipleship material are among restricted content, with sermons and other messages to be examined for compatibility with communist dogma. Even tithing is criminalised, according to Fu.

“It is illegal for those who are under 18 years old to receive any religious education in any form online,” Fu added. Content eligible for submission for approval is limited to Sinicized content from five religions the Chinese Communist Party recognizes, namely the Sinicized Three-Self Church brand of Protestantism, Catholicism, Daoism, Buddhism and Islam, Fu said.

China is one of the countries where Christians are most persecuted. The Communist nation ranks 17th on the Open Doors 2022 Watch List of countries where it is most difficult for Christians to practice their faith. China is a leader in using artificial intelligence to monitor Christians, threatening all areas of their livelihoods.

This year’s winter Olympics have ignited enormous controversy, with some countries, including the U.S., invoking a diplomatic boycott of the games over China’s appalling human rights abuses. 

In line with the diplomatic boycott, international Christian evangelism group Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is calling Christians to pray for China during the games.

“The Olympics are always filled with wonderful pageantry and inspiring athletic accomplishments. But let’s not forget what the host government doesn’t want us to see: imprisoned pastors, destroyed church buildings and a complete lack of religious freedom,” VOM spokesman Todd Nettleton said. “I hope every Christian will use each event and every Olympic update as a reminder to pray for our persecuted family members in China as the Scriptures instruct us to do.”

Nettleton encouraged Christians to pray for church leaders to stand firmly for biblical truth in spite of government pressure, that Chinese believers will be encouraged and united in fellowship, and that the Gospel will be spread among local and national Chinese[DC1] Communist officials.

Fu joined more than 240 human rights groups in a statement urging additional governments to join the boycott.

Religious liberty watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide is one of the signatories.

“These games are taking place during a period of intense repression of fundamental human rights in the Uyghur Region, Tibet, Hong Kong, and even the very city where the games will take place,” Christian Solidarity Worldwide Founder and President Meryvn Thomas said in signing the statement.

“Across China, human rights lawyers have been disbarred, banned from leaving the country, detained and tortured and Christians and other religious communities are facing unprecedented restrictions on their online religious activities even as their physical meeting spaces are shut down.”

The tournament has widely been referred to as the ‘genocide Games’ with some commentators arguing that international participation in the Games is facilitating the CCP’s ‘whitewash’ of their crimes against humanity; as the Games in Beijing carrying on despite Chinese human rights abuses.

As reported by Gript’s Matt Treacy, the Olympic Federation of Ireland considered whether they ought to boycott the games as a protest against China’s appalling human rights record, but decided in December that such a gesture would serve no purpose, and made the point that “sometimes, sport is used a bit unjustly to try and deal with geo-political problems that should be dealt with in other ways.” 

Whilst ten states have chosen to boycott the Olympics specifically because of China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims, general human rights abuses, and in the case of Lithuania, China’s support for Taiwan against a background of increased intimidation by Beijing, Ireland will not be among the countries participating in any boycott of the Games. The failure to boycott the Games is being celebrated by China, as Matt Treacy comments, as yet another validation, similar to the Nazi hosting of the actual Olympics in Berlin in 1936, of their authoritarian rule.

Indeed, Open Doors CEO, David Curry has said China is employing the Olympics as propaganda as it continues to mercilessly persecute Christians, Muslims, and other religious minorities. Upon release of the 2022 World Watch List, Curry said that the Olympics “are but one example of how China is using sports, money and investment in infrastructure around the world to whitewash their human rights violations. We must and we have to and we must see this for what it is.” 

“Slowly, ever so slowly, inch by inch, this noose is tightening around religious faith in China. New laws are being passed to enforce and restrict the teachings of Jesus,” he said. “There’s no more precious book to Christians than the Bible, and this aggression is most grave.”

The new restrictions on online religious content, Curry said, will subject the nearly 100 million Christians in China “to Bibles that have key elements removed or changed because they conflict with Communist dogma. Only groups that recognise the Communist Party of China and their censorship over sermons and Bibles will be allowed to distribute the Scripture.”

Because of intense government pressure, about 80 percent of churches have fractured into small groups, have gone underground or have gone online, Open Doors estimates. The watchdog group says there are about 96.7 million Christians in China’s population of 1.43 billion people.

Open Doors says that its 2022 World Watchlist research shows that persecution against Christians has reached unprecedented levels. 

Taking to Instagram on Monday, the organisation wrote: “Right now, brothers and sisters are in the heat of the fire. Persecuted because of loyalty [and] faithfulness to Jesus.” Open Doors has urged people to pray for “help, hope and healing” for persecuted Christians across the world.

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