New Draft Law Threatens the Future of Christian Websites in China

(ilkaydede/iStock and Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

I’ve written in the past about the plethora of Chinese Christian media online, providing Christians with video sermons, written testimonies, movie reviews, and in-depth theological articles. As long as these media outlets stay away from politics and breaking news, they’re allowed to publish content that enriches and informs their readers. Most post content on the ubiquitous Chinese social media app WeChat.

While working on the 2016 story “Peering into a fiery furnace,” I subscribed to several of the most well-known Christian WeChat channels, including Overseas Campus, (a video site), Church China, and Territory. Every day, my WeChat subscription feed filled with new stories with headlines like “Is assurance of salvation essential to our faith?” “Here are some problems with the theory of evolution,” and “God is starting a completely new season, repentance is key.”

The writers of these stories don’t have the same freedom Christians in the West have, yet they’ve been able to address otherwise taboo topics like porn addiction and depression, unpack complicated Scripture passages, counsel Christians dealing with difficult marriages and unmanageable children, and inspire readers with testimonies of how God rescues sinners.

Yet upcoming regulations could mean the end of Christian media online: Last month, China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs released a draft law that would restrict the types of religious information that can be posted online. It would ban videos of prayer, baptism, burning incense, or other religious activities, as well as online evangelism.

Religious media would need to register with the government, which requires applicants to be an organization “lawfully established” in China. This would exclude house churches and foreigners (including ministries based in Taiwan or Hong Kong) who run WeChat channels, according to a crowdsourced translation of the draft law’s text on China Law Translate. Provincial-level religious affairs departments would decide whether to approve or reject the applicants, and each license would be valid for three years.

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SOURCE: WORLD Magazine, June Cheng