In the wake of the release of a new white paper on “religious freedom,” Beijing has ordered bibles and other Christian books removed from online bookstores across China, sparking a wave of complaints.
In the absence of any official government statement explaining why the bible has been removed from online bookshops, the most common theory has been that a new, state-approved translation is in the works that will square with Chinese socialist ideology.
Last week, China announced that one of its biggest tasks in the coming years is to enhance “Chinese-style Christianity” by reinterpreting and retranslating the Bible. The announcement came in a document, titled “Principles for Promoting the Chinese Christianity in China for the Next Five Years (2018-2022),” which was launched in Nanjing on March 28, two days before bibles started disappearing from websites.
As commenters have pointed out, the bible itself is not officially approved by the Chinese Government for publication and therefore is technically an illegal publication that cannot be sold and can only be circulated in churches. Moreover, the government has announced that all “foreign religions” must be reconciled with Chinese socialism, or “Sinicized.”
China “manages religious affairs in accordance with the law, adheres to the principle of independence and self-management, actively guides religions to adapt to the socialist society, and unites religious believers and non-believers to the greatest extent,” the white paper stated.
The keyword search for “bible” on the Chinese social media platform Weibo saw a massive spike on March 31, followed by a sharp nose dive to zero on April 1, spawning suspicions that the government had censored the word.