Two officially-sanctioned Christian organizations in China are reportedly using abbreviations for names such as "Jesus," "Christ," and "Bible" on online postings to avoid censorship, according to a new report.
"Recently, 'Tianfengshuyuan,' the official WeChat book store of the Christian Council of China and the Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches of China, updated titles and descriptions of all its books," wrote Zhensai Gao of ChinaAid. "The book store owners replaced all Chinese characters for 'Christ' with Chinese pinyin initials 'JD,' or even completely removed 'Christ' from its books."
Other terms that are abbreviated or covered in online bookstore photos are "Protestant Churches," "Christians," "God," and "Lord."
Both the Christian Council of China and the Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches of China are sanctioned by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), although they are routinely forced to change biblical text and teachings and praise the communist government.
Despite being allowed to exist, these organizations cannot openly sell their books through China's heavily-monitored and censored internet channels. The only way to sell Christian materials is to alter the product descriptions and titles to ensure the books and other products do not violate the government's rules.
The Bible itself is prohibited from being sold online at all.
"Since March 30, 2018, the "Holy Bible" has been removed from all online booksellers in throughout China, including Taobao, Jingdong, WeChat store, Dangdang, Amazon China, etc," explains Gao. "As the CCP has also banned related Christian books, many online religious booksellers' stores shut down. Unlike Buddhist and Islamic books, as the "Holy Bible" does not have an ISBN in China, regular book stores do not sell Bibles there."
Last month, the owner of another online Christian bookseller was sentenced to seven years in prison for "illegal business operations." The CCP burned nearly 13,000 books belonging to the seller and is now using his records to track down his customers.
ChinaAid said that while the government has previously said it would grant "special privilege" to sanctioned ministries for the printing of Bible and religious books, developments in online censorship by the CCP has proven this to be false.
"Current challenges to Christian booksellers confirms that the Chinese Communist Party is imposing stronger controls over Christianity," said Gao.