Religion crackdown to intensify online?

BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 12: A Chinese Christian pastor leads prayers during a service at an underground independent Protestant Church on October 12, 2014 in Beijing, China. China, an officially atheist country, places a number of restrictions on Christians and allows legal practice of the faith only at state-approved churches.†The policy has driven an increasing number of Christians and Christian converts 'underground' to secret congregations in private homes and other venues. While the size of the religious community is difficult to measure, studies estimate there more than 65 million Christians inside China with studies supporting the possibility it could become the most Christian nation in the world within a decade. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The government has released a draft of a new set of rules called “Measures on the administration of internet religious information services.” Legal scholar Jeremy Daum has posted a translation of the rules, and tweeted that the measures are “really troubling in their overreach” and worth a look. The South China Morning Post notes:

  • The rules say “all groups distributing religious information online would have to have a license from provincial religious affairs departments. Licensed groups would be able to ‘preach and offer religious training’ but not live-stream or broadcast religious activities.”
  • Foreign groups and individuals would be banned from disseminating religious content online.
  • “The proposal drew immediate criticism within China, says the SCMP, “including from a Zhejiang-based monk who warned that excessive control of legal religious activities would only encourage people with unmet spiritual needs to seek out illegal sources.”
  • Public consultations on the rules end on October 9.