HONG KONG (CNS) — The Chinese Communist Party is seeking to expand its apparatus to monitor and curb religious activities in cyberspace through training and deploying hundreds of “auditors” across the country, triggering concerns from rights groups.
Under the guidance of the Communist Party, the Ethnic and Religious Commission of Guangdong Province in southern China held a test for the first group of auditors for the state-run Internet Religious Information Services in early June, the China Christian Daily reported.
Ucanews.com, reporting on the China Christian Daily story, said the result of the test was announced at the end of June and showed 127 people qualified for auditor posts.
The Internet Religious Information Services agency was formed in March after China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs announced the “Administrative Measures for Internet Religious Information Services” late last year.
The measures have been formulated by several state agencies in line with existing legislation in China such as the “Cybersecurity Law of the People’s Republic of China,” “Administrative Measures for Internet Information Services,” and the revised “Regulations on Religious Affairs.”
International Christian Concern, a U.S.-based Christian rights group, termed the move to deploy auditors as a “part of a wider effort to crack down on the spreading of religious information online.”
The regulation concerning internet religious information services insists on “the integration of the protection of citizens’ freedom of religion with the maintenance of national ideological security, and the combination of the safeguarding of the legitimate rights and interests of religious believers with the practice of core socialist values,” John Wang, a reporter and commentator for the China Christian Daily, wrote Dec. 23, 2021.
Besides detailing measures for standardizing internet-based religious information services, the regulation says online preaching should be organized and performed by religious groups, religious schools, temples, and churches that have obtained an “Internet Religious Information Service License.”
No organization or individual is allowed to carry out virtual missionary work and religious education and training, post the content of sermons or forward related content except for conditions specified in Articles 15 and 16 of the regulation, Wang said. It also bans organizing, live broadcasts and recordings of online religious activities.
Despite recognizing the legal presence of five religions — Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Catholicism and Protestantism — China controls all religious activities through state-sanctioned bodies that report to communist officials at local and central levels.
Since President Xi Jinping came to power, both legal and illegal religious groups have been facing a renewed crackdown under the pretext of several policies, including the 2018 Regulation on Religious Affairs.
In its latest religious freedom report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom criticized China for the deterioration of religious freedom conditions.
“The communist Chinese government has created a high-tech surveillance state, utilizing facial recognition and artificial intelligence to monitor and harass Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong and other religions,” the commission noted.
Independent experts estimate that between 900,000 and 1.8 million Uighur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz and other Muslims have been detained in more than 1,300 concentration camps in Xinjiang, it added.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103