The crackdown on religious publications intensifies in Inner Mongolia, officials inspecting postal packages, burning books, and censoring online communication.
The Chinese authorities continue to use its policy to “Eradicate pornography and illegal publications” to crack down on dissent and religious liberties. Publications that violate “the Party’s ethnic and religious policies,” including non-approved Bibles, hymnbooks, books about religion for children, and religious materials from abroad that are not approved for distribution in China are the primary targets of the suppression disguised as the fight for the moral values.
Bitter Winter has received a confidential document, entitled Special Campaign Plan for In-Depth Implementation of Eradicating Pornography and Illegal Publications to consolidate the frontier for 2019, issued in April by a locality in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, that aims to stop the distribution of religious materials as well as prevent information related to religions and critical of the government appearing online.
Postal services ordered to inspect packages
The document calls for “constantly blocking, investigating and dealing with” religious publications from abroad and printed materials that are smuggled, carried or mailed. It demands postal and courier services to open packages that may include religious publications and register phone numbers and ID information of the persons sending and receiving them. Government personnel are carrying out random inspections of packages or pretend to be clients sending religious books to make sure that employees are acting as instructed.
Non-approved Bibles, books on Islam or about Xinjiang and Tibet, as well as books about South Korea Christianity are all key targets of the inspection. Publications related to Falun Gong or The Church of Almighty God are prohibited from being mailed at all. As soon as such items are discovered, the courier in charge will be punished: from getting fired to being detained.
Courier and postal services in other regions of China, such as the southeastern province of Jiangxi or eastern province of Shandong, have earlier reported to Bitter Winter that the control of postal services had become significantly stricter than before.
Severe crackdown on information online
The scope of “eradicating pornography and illegal publications” also includes purging non-official online religious publications and any comments posted on the web. The document demands “overall planning of an online battle,” strengthening the supervision of the Internet and mobile networks to maintain “strict-crackdown, high-pressure momentum” against content involving “illegal” religions.
The document mentions explicitly Facebook and Twitter, as well as Radio Free Asia, The Epoch Times, and other overseas media, and demands to employ strict measures against people using various firewall-circumvention software to get information through these websites and the “reverse flowing of harmful information,” i.e., information unfavorable to the government that is accessible to domestic population. In particular, the document states that close attention must be paid to some South Korean Christian publications as well as books and information about Falun Gong and The Church of Almighty God.
In April, the police searched the home of a company employee in southeast China’s Fujian Province who was later detained for seven days for bypassing the “Great Firewall of China” and posting comments on Twitter. While in detention, he was forced to watch patriotic propaganda films every day. The police questioned people in his household about his “political inclinations.”
The police claimed that posting remarks on Twitter has too much of an impact and questioned the employee as to the purpose of his comments as well as about whether he participated in any foreign or xie jiao organizations. The police also ordered him to sign his name on more than 200 pages of printed Twitter content with his comments, making him admit that these comments were wrong.
Non-official religious books confiscated and burned
The document also calls on the government departments that implement policies related to culture, arts, sports, and tourism to join forces in investigating religious venues, scripture classes, training institutions, printing companies near schools and religious venues, typing and copying shops, dining and entertainment establishments, for unauthorized religious publications. Grid administrators – government-designated people to supervise areas of 15-20 households – and regular citizens are to be mobilized to report any leads on such materials.
Religious books that are not approved by the state continue to be confiscated across China. According to believers from Qitaihe city in northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, last December, officials from the local Two Chinese Christian Councils, Public Security Bureau, Religious Affairs Bureau, and other departments transported more than 10,000 religious books, including non-official versions of the Bible and Canaan Hymns that were confiscated from various local churches, to the backyard of Bei’an Three-Self Church in the city’s Xinxing district. The books were burned in batches to avoid billowing smoke eliciting public concern; the process took 15 days.
“Some books haven’t even been opened. The officials were afraid that believers would take the books and read them again if they weren’t destroyed,” said a believer. “It is so distressing to see these books being burned!”
The police also use the confiscated books as leads for arresting and persecuting religious groups. The Inner Mongolia document demands that public security departments use every “illegal” religious book, promotional material, and audiovisual product as the source for making breakthroughs in previous unsolved cases.