China’s period of quiet tolerance of religion is coming to an end.
Just a day after the government banned Zion Church, one of the largest unofficial Protestant churches in Beijing, confiscating “illegal promotional materials,” the National Religious Affairs Administration released a draft of regulations that prohibit all foreigners from preaching online.
Even domestic groups distributing religious information online would have to have a license from provincial religious affairs departments. Live-streaming religious activities would also be banned.
The release of the rules also comes eight months after administration director Wang Zuoan called for higher legal standards for religious work and further “Sinicization” of all religions in the country.
China is also cracking down on the sale of Bibles online and on “underground churches.”
Wang said in January that more regulations on temporary venues for religious events, approvals of religious academies and the hiring of foreign personnel for religious teaching were in the pipeline to help Beijing “complete” the regulatory system for religion.
The moves coincide with a statement published in a Communist Party journal by Beijing’s most senior official for religion that said “foreign forces” cannot control religious institutions in China.