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Internet Regulations Six Months On

It has now been almost six months since new regulations went into effect in China regarding the production and dissemination of religious content online. Called Administrative Measures for Internet Religious Information Services, the documents set out who can post religious content online, how it can be done, and what types of information are covered.

In January, before they came into effect, I wrote about them in a post titled “Raising the Walls of the Sandbox.”

Recently the Christian Times, an online newspaper in China, interviewed three Christian IT workers about the impact they are having, as well as suggestions for how churches and believers can respond. The article was translated and published in China Christian Daily.

The first question they posed was about the essence of the new administrative measures. One of the things they point out is that religious information is not necessarily banned; but dissemination does require a license:

Concerning the contents, we should pay special attention to several key points. For example, Article 6 stipulates that the license should be obtained for providing information about religious teachings, religious knowledge, religious culture, and religious activities to the public in the form of texts, pictures, audios, and videos through internet websites, application programs, forums, blogs, micro-blogs, official accounts, instant messengers and live webcasts.

They do, however, point out that the regulations do not allow organizations or individuals “to set up religious organizations, colleges, or other places for religious activities, or to develop believers on the internet.” In other words, if strictly enforced internet evangelism is out.

They note that once churches obtain the proper license, “if the church preaches through the internet, it needs its self-built platform. The understanding of ‘self-built’ is closely related to the IT field, but the official interpretation is not seen yet.”

This seems to leave room for registered churches to continue carrying out their activities online. They also note that the meaning of “self-built” is still unclear, so a certain amount of gray remains.

Further, most churches do not have the technical expertise to build these platforms so they are going to need assistance, something these three brothers would like to help with.

Due to the licensing and real-name requirements, these regulations (if and when fully enforced) certainly make it more difficult for individuals and unregistered churches to put religious content online.

Let’s continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in China, both in the registered and unregistered churches, as they navigate the increasingly difficult online environment.

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Image credit: Piqsels.
Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio

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