China plans licence system to crack down on ‘chaotic’ online promotion of religion

All organisations disseminating religious information online will have to apply

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2018, 2:49pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2018, 10:33pm

China has drawn up new draft guidelines to crack down on the “chaotic” and illegal online promotion of religion, the official Global Times reported on Tuesday, part of a tough state campaign to bring religious worship into line.

All organisations engaged in the dissemination of religious information online will be obliged to apply for licences from provincial religious affairs departments, the newspaper said, citing a policy document issued on Monday.

While the licence will enable them to “preach and offer religious training”, they will not be allowed to live-stream or broadcast religious activities. The dissemination of religious information anywhere other than their own internet platforms is also forbidden.

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Those engaging in online religious information services are prohibited from business promotions in the name of religion, distributing religious supplies and publications, establishing religious organisations and venues and developing believers of religions.

No organisations or individuals are allowed to live-stream or broadcast religious activities including praying, burning incense, worshipping or receiving baptism online in the form of text, photo, audio or video.

The guidelines also specifically prohibit online religious services from inciting subversion, opposing the leadership of the Communist Party and promoting extremism and separatism.

The government is soliciting public opinion on the guidelines, on China’s legislative information website, from Monday to October 9.

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Chinese citizens are theoretically free to practise any religion as long as it is officially recognised by the government. It has repeatedly cracked down on unauthorised religious activity, with authorities in Beijing shutting down a large Protestant church on Monday.

China has also been under heavy international scrutiny for its treatment of its mostly Muslim Uygur minority in the western region of Xinjiang.

Human rights groups have accused the Chinese government of conducting a punitive crackdown that has seen the detention of as many as one million ethnic Uygurs in internment camps.