Gao Zhensai | ChinaAid
On March 1, the Chinese Communist party(CCP)’s “Measures for the Administration of Internet Religious Information Services” came into effect. Chinese provinces began to process applications of “Internet Religious Information Service Licenses,” as well as applications for “information auditing” training sessions for their work units, and other relevant works have started. Provinces have also begun to improve the ability of employees in charge of auditing religious information to ensure that religious information on the Internet is in line with the CCP’s political rhetoric.
According to the regulations set forth from the administrative measures, “unless permission is obtained from a provincial government department, no organization or individual may teach on the Internet, conduct religious education and training, publish sermons or repost or link related content, organize religious activities on the Internet, or live broadcast or record and broadcast religious ceremonies.”
In March, various provinces in China began to hold training for “Internet Religious Information Auditors,” Those who pass the assessment will be issued an “Internet Religious Information Service License,” which will be valid for three years. The party in charge of processing the Internet Religious Information Service Licenses” shall be equipped with at least one full-time religious information auditor to conduct a political inspection of the disseminated religious information.
The exam instructors for these auditors can only be students from officially registered religious institutions or religious clergy, and they must undergo identity verification.
The government plans to issue online licenses for officially registered religious groups, religious schools, and venues of religious activities that received training. The content of online publications, religious doctrine, and canon must be conducive to the official political views of the CCP, and the content of “social harmony, the progress of the generation, healthy civilization” should also guide citizens of faiths to be “patriotic and law-abiding.”
Anyone who is seen as using religion to incite subversion of state power, oppose the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, and undermine the socialist system, national unity, ethnic unity, and social stability will be punished.
Those who participate in online sermons must register with their officially registered legal name.
Jiangsu Province recently announced that it would launch the Internet Religious Information Service License Examination in mid-March.
The Zhejiang Provincial Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission announced on February 28 that it would carry out licensing work for Internet religious information services across the province. Training will begin in March.
Suppose a legal and illegal entity participating in the training engages in Internet religious information services. In that case, it shall apply to the Zhejiang Provincial Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission, and the Zhejiang Provincial Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission shall decide approval or disapproval within twenty days from the date of accepting the application.
The training contents of Internet religious information auditors include:
● Religious policies and regulations.
● Measures for the Administration of Internet Religious Information Services.
● Anti-cult knowledge.
● Anti-terrorism knowledge.
● Internet religious cases.
● Basic knowledge of various religions.
● Matters related to the application for Internet religious information services licenses and others.
The Commission also expressed that the training sessions for Internet religious information auditors will be in multiple batches.
Following Zhejiang, Anhui, Shandong, Shaanxi, Guangdong, and other provinces have issued similar notices at present, stating that “the inspection work of Internet religious information of auditors will be carried out in due course.”
Shaanxi Province also announced the range of studies for the Internet religious information auditors, in addition to laws and regulations related to religious affairs, the Civil Code, the National Security Law, the Internet Security Law, and other relevant laws and regulations and religious knowledge. It will also include Xi Jinping’s Thought on the rule of law, the Constitution, and socialist core values.
Although the Chinese government says these measures are aimed at protecting national security and social stability, the real purpose behind these various licenses is to strengthen China’s ruling party’s strict control over religious information.