SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China has drawn up new draft guidelines to crack down on the “chaotic” and illegal online promotion of religion, the official Global Times reported on Tuesday, part of a tough state campaign to bring religious worship into line.
All organisations engaged in the dissemination of religious information online will be obliged to apply for licenses from provincial religious affairs departments, the paper said, citing a policy document issued on Monday.
While the licence will enable them to “preach and offer religious training”, they will not be allowed to live-stream or broadcast religious activities. The dissemination of religious information anywhere other than their own internet platforms is also forbidden.
The guidelines also specifically prohibit online religious services from inciting subversion, opposing the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and promoting extremism and separatism.
Chinese citizens are theoretically free to practise any religion as long as it is officially recognised by the government. It has repeatedly cracked down on unauthorised religious activity, with authorities in Beijing shutting down a large Protestant church on Monday.
China has also been under heavy international scrutiny for its treatment of its mostly Muslim Uighur minority in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.
Human rights groups have accused the Chinese government of conducting a punitive crackdown that has seen the detention of as many as 1 million ethnic Uighurs in internment camps.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Paul Tait)