Businesses are prohibited from publishing religious texts that don’t pass CCP’s censorship, while postal and courier services are banned from distributing them.
by Huang Xin
Throughout China, authorities are issuing strict orders to ban the publication of all religious materials not approved by the government, punishing anyone who violates them. The situation makes printing businesses scared.
On September 14, education and environmental protection bureaus in Luoyang, a prefecture-level city in the central province of Henan, inspected a local printing house to determine whether it publishes banned religious materials.
“They checked my storehouse, scrutinized all records, and even looked at paper sheets on the floor, to see if they have prohibited content,” the printing house manager said. “If any such content is found, I’ll be fined, or worse, my business will be closed.”
The manager explained that he had refused all orders to print religious books and materials. “Inspections are too rigorous,” he said. “Any religious content makes the issue political, not religious. Although banners on the streets say people are allowed religious beliefs, the only faith they can practice freely is that in the Communist Party.”
Most of the other Luoyang’s printing houses visited by Bitter Winter also don’t accept orders to print religious materials.
“The government does not allow to print religious materials nationwide, especially Christian,” a sales department manager in one of the visited businesses explained. “Anyone who takes on such orders breaks the law and might be put into prison. This is the line that we absolutely can’t cross. A printing house in the city was closed down for printing religious books, and some of its staff were arrested.”
Similar bans are applied to photocopying businesses. “I don’t even dare to make copies of two sheets with religious hymns because of strict investigations,” an attendant at a photocopying shop in Luoyang said. “I was told to report anyone who comes to copy religious materials.”
The keeper of another photocopying shop confirmed that religious materials are banned from being photocopied. “If businesses are discovered, they could be fined as much as ten times their monthly income; or worst of all, workers could even be arrested,” the man explained. “If we are not sure if a text is religious, we must keep its copy and report it to authorities.”
For postal, logistics, and courier services, religious materials are labeled as “contraband.”
“The government exerts strict control over mailed goods this year,” a staff member at a courier company in Luoyang said. “Only the mailing of government-approved books is allowed. All books with ‘bad information,’ including religion, are not allowed to be dispatched. If public security authorities discover violations of these regulations, the company will be fined and closed down.”
On June 20, a Seventh-day Adventist church member in Henan’s Jiyuan city went to a local post office to mail gospel materials to her daughter abroad but was told that her publications were “illegal objects.”
“I knew that it was illegal to send combustible objects, drugs, guns, and ammunition, but even religious materials are now illegal,” the believer lamented.
In early September, over 100 Buddhists from Weihai city in the eastern province of Shandong bought online CDs with sermons of Khenpo Sodargye, a well-known Tibetan Buddhist master. When the sender took the package to a postal office in the provincial capital Jinan, the police arrested him. The buyers’ names and addresses were forwarded to relevant police stations in Weihai, and the Buddhists were summoned for questioning.
“Because of the strict control, Buddhist books not approved by the state can only be bought through underground sources,” a Buddhist from Weihai complained.
During a meeting on Buddhism, organized on July 31 by the Religious Affairs Bureau of Fuzhou city in the southeastern province of Jiangxi, all temples in the city were banned from keeping religious books from Hong Kong and Taiwan. The order was taken in the name of “preventing foreign infiltration.”
“The government controls religions for fear that people of faith will be influenced by foreigners to go against the Communist Party,” the director of a Buddhist temple in Jiangxi commented. “The government controls all books on Buddhism; nothing that does not comply with the CCP ideology is allowed and is considered illegal. Only religious materials promoting the Party are permitted to be circulated.”