China has escalated its ban on the printing of religious materials in recent months, inspecting printing houses for possible violations and even prohibiting the copying of hymns, according to a new report.
The manager of a printing house in Luoyang in the province of Henan said his business was inspected on Sept. 14 for religious materials.
“Any religious content makes the issue political, not religious. Although banners on the streets say people are allowed religious beliefs, the only faith they can practice freely is that in the Communist Party,” the manager told Bitter Winter, a watchdog that monitors religious liberty violations in China. Bitter Winter visited multiple printing businesses.
Inspections, the manager said, are “too rigorous.” He refuses to print religious materials.
“They checked my storehouse, scrutinized all records, and even looked at paper sheets on the floor, to see if they have prohibited content,” the manager told Bitter Winter. “If any such content is found, I’ll be fined, or worse, my business will be closed.”
The ban on the printing of illegal religious materials applies to the photocopying of hymns for use in church services.
“I don’t even dare to make copies of two sheets with religious hymns because of strict investigations,” a worker at a second photocopying business in Luoyang said. “I was told to report anyone who comes to copy religious materials.”
A printing business that breaks the law and prints religious materials could be closed, with its owner and manager jailed.
The sales department manager in a third printing business said he knows of a shop that was closed and its staff arrested for violating the restrictions on religious materials.
“The government does not allow to print religious materials nationwide, especially Christian,” a sales department manager in a printing business told Bitter Winter. “Anyone who takes on such orders breaks the law and might be put into prison. This is the line that we absolutely can’t cross.”
A worker at another shop told Bitter Winter, “If we are not sure if a text is religious, we must keep its copy and report it to authorities.”
Photo courtesy: ©Zack Smith/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.