The Chinese Communist Party is continuing its assault on religious liberty by fining churches for using versions of the Bible not authorized by the state and confiscating other printed materials, according to religious liberty magazine Bitter Winter.
Fengyang Road Three-Self Great Church in the province of Liaoning was fined the equivalent of $1,400 after authorities found South Korean versions of the Bible at the church, Bitter Winter reported.
Other churches in the Three-Self movement have had publications as diverse as newspapers, hymnals and leaflets taken and burned after government inspections.
According to Bitter Winter, the movement to restrict religious expression is part of the CCP’s plan for “eradicating pornography and illegal publications.”
In August, the Chongyang county government in the province of Hubei published an open letter titled, “All People Must Take Action and Fully Carry Out Work to ‘Clean Up Gang Crime and Eliminate Evil’ and ‘Eradicate Pornography and Illegal Publications’ in the Religious Field!”
The letter linked pornographic material to religious texts, decrying “harmful information” online.
The targets of the county’s campaign are “publications and information that weaken, distort, or negate the Party’s leadership or China’s socialist system.”
Authorities in one jurisdiction are even forcing churches to endorse government censorship.
In the Erqi district in the city of Zhengzhou, the Religious Affairs Bureau has instructed religious venues to promote the campaign against “harmful information” by displaying information about the initiative.
Now, the Fengzhuang Three-Self Church features banners and panels advertising censorship of Christian texts.
Chinese Christians are speaking out against the government campaign.
One church worker called the campaign “slanderous to God,” according to Bitter Winter. Another said the program was a “trap laid by the devil to make people mistakenly believe that there is a severe problem with the church’s ethos.”
Bitter Winter Director-in-Charge Marco Respinti described the government’s efforts as “very tricky, subtle cultural warfare.”
“Sometimes the CCP says you’re allowed to have religious materials in the state-controlled church, but then they stop people, so it’s contradictory,” he told Fox News.
Respinti painted the campaign as a part of the Chinese government’s efforts to go beyond public censorship into the realm of the private.
“They are trying to control all of culture, and religion is a huge part of people’s culture. So they’re trying not only to stop people’s public expression of religion but they are also trying to go into personal things — beliefs — they are trying to indoctrinate people through these banning of religious materials.”
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