It is probably the most printed book in the history of the world, but the Bible can no longer be sold publicly in China. Media reports say the Christian holy book has been deleted from various online book stores and e-commerce sites. The crackdown comes even as Beijing says it is trying to make talks with the Vatican work.
In true Beijing style, there has been no public or direct order from the Chinese government banning the sale of the Bible. However, e-commerce giants like JD.com, Amazon.cn, Dang Dang and Taobao turned up no search results for the Bible, reported the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
The apparent crackdown on the sale of the Bible comes as the Vatican and Beijing hold talks to reach a deal to appoint bishops for dioceses in China. When it seized control of the country in 1949, the Communist Party of China (CPC) expelled both Catholic and Protestant missionaries, terming them agents of imperialism. The practice of Christianity in China since 1951 has only been allowed through churches approved by the government's Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which does not recognise the Vatican as its religious authority.
For years, the Chinese government has categorised the Bible as a publication for 'internal distribution' only. That is Beijing officialese for book that can only be sold by government-approved churches. But this has so far not been enforced too rigidly.
A publishing house owner in Beijing told South China Morning Post that an official of the Ministry of Culture had said the store could no longer sell 'foreign' books.
Dong Jianlin, a bishop of an 'approved' house church in Xian told the Post that the news of the 'Bible ban' has shocked believers. "But I think the shock will die down gradually, because you just can't ban the Bible," he said. "People will always find ways to buy it, such as at state-sanctioned churches."
Ying, however, told the Post he believed the move was part of Beijing's attempts to stem the spread of Christianity online. Officially, there are about 44 million Christians in China. However, along with 'underground' Christians, this figure may be more than the 90 million members of the Communist Party of China, which could explain the CPC's edginess.