Last week, Chinese social media users began noticing that they couldn’t find Bibles listed on some of their nation’s most popular e-commerce platforms.
Shoppers who searched the word Bible on retailers such as Taobao, Jingdong, Dang Dang, and Amazon.cn began receiving a “no results” response, reported the South China Morning Post.
Search analytics revealed a significant spike in the keyword Bible on March 30. But by April 1, analytics showed a zero, suggesting that the word may have been censored, reported the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Two days before the Bibles were banned from online purchase, the Chinese government released a document outlining how it intends to promote “Chinese Christianity” over the next five years. According to the document, one of the government’s key objectives is to reinterpret and retranslate the Bible in order to enhance “Chinese-style Christianity and theology.”
Among China’s main religions—which include Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and folk beliefs—Christianity is unique for having its holy text banned from commercial brick-and-mortar bookstores. Until the internet, Bibles could only be obtained via church bookstores (because they lacked a barcode), a reality that in the past has dissuaded house church Christians wary of official Three-Self churches from purchasing the text.
A joint venture between the Amity Foundation and the United Bible Societies, Amity Printing Company is the only press in China allowed by the government to print Bibles.
As CT reported in 2003:
Legal Bibles are not in short supply. The Red Guards confiscated Bibles, so that after the Cultural Revolution, the most pressing need of Christians in China was for Bibles. A decade of illegal Bible smuggling met part of the need, but it put Christians in the difficult position of supporting an illegal activity. After three years of negotiations, the Amity Press was able to begin printing Bibles legally.
The company reported in 2017 that “more than 160 million Bibles have come off our production lines.” However, many of these copies are sold overseas. The Bibles distributed in China through Amity also do not include commentaries, footnotes, or other study tools.