China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs Explains New Internet Regulations

01/21/2022 China (International Christian Concern) – To better respond to questions from the public regarding the latest measures enacted to limit religious activities online, the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) in China recently posted written responses to its website. ICC selected a few responses to indicate the scope of these measures.

Measures for the administration of the religious information service on the Internet, which will come into force on March 1, were put in place because

In recent years, websites, apps, forums, blogs, microblogs, public accounts, instant messaging tools, live webcasts, etc. with religious content have sprung up one after another, and there have been some notable outstanding issues. They are mainly as follows: some organizations and individuals have established virtual religious activity venues and religious institutions on the Internet to engage in religious activities, provide religious education, which has disrupted and impacted the normal order of management of religious affairs; some engage in various forms of illegal fund-raising and feudal superstition activities on the Internet under the banner of religion, which harm physical and mental health and property security. In addition, some have made statements on the Internet that violate the Party’s religious policies, incite religious fanaticism, slander and attack religions, or cause inter-religious conflicts, which have affected the normal order in the religious field and the harmony and social stability. Some other religious extremist and separatist thoughts spread on the Internet, encouraged and planned violent terrorist activities, undermined national unity and political stability in China, which endangered national security.

With respect to how the Measures defines the scope of religious information services on the Internet and the requirements for engaging in such service,

Internet religious information services include Internet religious information publication services, reprint services, communication platform services and other services related to Internet religious information. Services that provide information such as religious teachings, religious knowledge, religious culture, and religious activities to the public through websites, applications, forums, blogs, microblogs, public accounts, instant messaging tools, live webcasts, etc. are all within the permitted scope. religious information services on the Internet.

To engage in this service, the following conditions are required: 1. The applicant is a legal person or an unincorporated organization legally established in the territory of the People’s Republic of China, and its legal representative or principal responsible person is a mainland resident with Chinese nationality; 2. There are fact checkers who are familiar with national religious policies and regulations and related religious knowledge; 3. The applicant has a good religious information service management system on the Internet; 4. The applicant has a good information security management system and secure and controllable technical safeguards; 5. There are places, facilities and funds that match the service; 6. The applicant and his or her legal representative or primary responsible person have no criminal record or acts contrary to the relevant provisions of the administration of religious affairs in the past three years. In addition, the Measures clearly state that foreign organizations or individuals and their organizations established in China should not engage in religious information services on the Internet in China.

To organize religious conferences online, the following are required:

These are mainly the following provisions. The first is the subject, which is clearly defined in the measures, must be religious groups, religious institutions, temples and churches that have obtained the religious information service license on the Internet. The second is that the platform must be and only websites, applications, forums, etc. legally self-established. The third is that personnel who can give lectures and sermons should only be religious faculty members and teachers of religious colleges. The fourth is that the content should be beneficial to social harmony, progress, health and civilization to guide citizens to be patriotic and law-abiding. The fifth is management, with the real names of those attending the conferences being recorded. These regulations not only give legal religious groups, colleges, temples, churches, and religious faculties the right to lecture over the Internet, but also prevent illegal religious organizations and individuals from courting believers and engaging in illegal activities on the Internet.

In short, under the new measures, house churches will not be able to conduct religious activities online because they are not state-sanctioned in the first place. Pastors and house church leaders are also mostly trained outside of state-approved seminaries, which prevents them from preaching “legally”. House churches will have to find creative ways to continue regular worship amid the intensified crackdown.

(Translation made by China Christian Daily)

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