This month of December, new Administrative Measures for Internet Religious Information Services were promulgated by the State Administration of Religious Affairs, the National Internet Information Office, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of National Security. They will come into force on March 1, 2022.
The Measures follows complaints by President Xi Jinping that prohibitions against using the Internet to “advertise” religion are easily eluded, and more should be done to make sure that the Internet and social networks are not used as tools for “religious propaganda.”
The Measures require an “Internet Religious Information Service License,” which can only be granted to organizations part of the five authorized religions (since they should be “legally established,” which is only possible within the five government-controlled organization), to disseminate religious content via the Internet. Any other reference to religion on the web is declared illegal.
Even the organizations within the five authorized religions are subject to surveillance and limitations. They can broadcast sermons and lessons, but these would be checked by the authorities for their “Sinicized” content, making sure they promote Socialist values and support the Party, and are not intended as proselytization tools. Religious universities and colleges may disseminate contents via the Internet only to their students. Any attempt to spread religious content to minors or “induce minors to believe in religion” will lead to the termination of the license.
Organizations which will not obtain the license, and individuals, may not disseminate any religious content or even allusions through the Internet. Sharing images or comments on “religious ceremonies such as worshiping Buddha, burning incense, taking ordination, chanting, worship, mass, and baptisms” will be severely prohibited.