Home News China starts processing licenses for online religious activities

China starts processing licenses for online religious activities

Religious groups seeking to hold online activities, such as streaming or publishing sermons, should first get an Internet Religious Information Service Permit

Authorities in China have started issuing licenses for online religious services in compliance with the “Measures for the Administration of Internet Religious Information Service” that was adopted jointly by the Ministry of State Security and other agencies last year.

The ban on unauthorized online religious activities took effect on March 1, cutting off many house churches from a “crucial resource in their ability to preach the gospel,” according to the group International Christian Concern (ICC).

Religious groups seeking to hold online activities, such as streaming or publishing sermons, should first get an Internet Religious Information Service Permit.



Organizations or individuals are also prohibited to raise funds online “in the name of religion.”

Several provinces have announced that they are already implementing the ban and requiring permits to hold religious services.

In Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee said any person or organization who intends to engage in online religious services shall apply for a permit.

The notice said the committee will make a decision whether to approve or deny the application within 20 days.

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“Relevant formalities shall be handled in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Measures for the Administration of Internet Religious Information Services within 6 months from the effective date,” said notices issued in several provinces in the past week.

It said that an “internet religious information examiner training course” will soon be conducted to facilitate the applicants’ work and “effectively improve the examination ability of religious information examiners.”

The training module includes religious policies and regulations, management measures of internet religious information service, anti-cult knowledge, anti-terrorism knowledge, Internet religious cases, basic knowledge of various religions, and matters related to the application for Internet religious information service license.

The ICC earlier said the measures “represent a direct assault on so much of China’s informal and unregulated religious activity.”

It said that many house churches in China operate outside of the sanctioned religious organizations commissioned by the Chinese government’s SARA, either the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) or the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA).

Christian churches that operate outside of these organizations have faced severe harassment from Chinese authorities, said the ICC.

It said that online religious activities will now be under even closer scrutiny by Chinese authorities, making the operation of a house church or a non-sanctioned church “much more dangerous.”

The group said the measures “will also impact … state-sanctioned churches, as their permitted status places them front-and-center for government oversight online.”

“This is extremely concerning given the already strict guidance for religious clergy to follow, including the promotion of national unity, love of country, and love of party from the pulpit,” said the ICC.

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