China seems to have banned the bible from being sold online or in large book stores, as Beijing and the Vatican negotiate a historic agreement.
Searches for bibles on major e-commerce platforms JD.com and Taobao brought up no results, while staff at one of Beijing’s biggest book stores said they no longer sell the book.
The Chinese communist party has banned all online stores in China from selling Bibles. At around the same time, it published its first white paper on religious freedom. #religiousfreedom@benedictrogers @NYDailyNews @CBSNews @CBNNews @ABC @BBC @FoxNews @CNN @BobFu4China @NBCNews pic.twitter.com/Tpyly9tees
— 郭亚萨 Grace Yasa Guo (@graceyasa) April 4, 2018
The removal of the book comes amid tensions between China and Rome over a landmark deal that some observers believe is close to being signed.
The agreement, which would give the Vatican more control over the appointment of bishops in China, has sparked concern among some Chinese Catholics.
Two online merchants told CNN customers may still obtain copies of the holy book from them through private messages, but public listing of the Bible is now impossible on Taobao.
A new Chinese government white paper on religious freedoms published this week asserted that all faiths must “adapt themselves to the socialist society”.
The paper listing official Communist Party policies added: “Religious believers and non-believers respect each other, and live in harmony, committing themselves to reform and opening up and the socialist modernization, and contribute to the realization of the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.”
William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, said the Vatican should address the online Bible sale ban with Beijing.
Chinese Catholic bishops and the Vatican have not good relations for decades because Chinese Catholic bishops are not appointed by the Pope. However, both sides have shown some progress in reconciliation in recent weeks.
Nee said, “The Vatican should probably take this issue into consideration in its discussions with their Chinese counterparts, since the banning of the sale of Bibles is obviously a worrying move, demonstrating the worsening state for freedom of religion in China.
“There is a broader trend under President Xi Jinping to more tightly control religion, especially Christianity.
“It’s absurd that the government claims to promote religious freedom at the same time that they’re banning the sale of Bibles.”