In another move against the country’s lucrative religious scene, online sales of the Bible have been prohibited in China.
As reported by The New York Times, the Chinese Government has banned retailers such as Amazon, JD.com, Taobao and numerous others from selling the book. Internet searches for the Bible came up empty by Thursday morning.
However, some retailers still offered analyses of the religious text and even illustrated storybooks.
The rule is just one of many implemented to control the foreign country’s Christian community, whose holy text cannot be bought or sold through normal commercial channels like other religions such as Taoism or Buddhism.
In China’s longstanding effort to control the widespread influence of the Christian belief system, Bibles could only legally be sold through church bookstores — until a loophole was found in online shopping that made it more readily available.
According to The Times, closing this loophole effectively allows the Beijing state to further impose religious regulations as the country has recently tightened rules on both Christianity and Islam.
In fact, from 2014 to 2016, China saw some of its worst persecution against Christianity followed by a crack-down on what was seen as an influence of Islam.
In what he deemed a “battle against illegal constructions,” China’s Minister of Housing Chen Zhenggao had the crosses of nearly 1,500 churches in the Chinese province of Zhejiang destroyed or torn down by late 2014.
In a speech to China’s estimated 100 million Christians, Zhenggao stated that they should learn from what happened in Zhejiang.
The government has also stepped up its measures in controlling the influence of Islam, where crackdowns on public displays of faith — such as women wearing headscarves, men wearing long beards and shops not selling pork products, tobacco or alcohol — have also been seen.
The restrictions to two of the world’s largest religions are part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts to promote “traditional values,” as the foreign country has been serious in its promotion of Buddhism, Taoism and other folk religions.
The restriction also comes during a time when China has been engaged in a series of negotiations with the Vatican in order to effectively end the “underground church,” which began nearly 70 years ago after the global church and the Chinese government split.
As the Catholic church retains its anti-Communist stance, not much has been said on the negotiations, though some observers have alluded to new measures cracking down on the religion.
On Tuesday, a government spokesman outlined China’s approach by stating the Vatican wouldn’t hold sway over the clergy working in China — a statement that came swiftly after a government reorganization in which the Communist Party has taken over all religious policy and affiliation.
“It sounds like the opposition force within the Chinese authorities who oppose the Vatican-China relations have their voice,” said Yang Fenggang, who is head of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University.
“It clearly shows that they worry,” he said. “Or are concerned about Catholics as well as Protestants.”
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