Other printing shops maintain similar policies, citing government prohibitions on the publishing of religious texts, particularly Christian texts. A publishing shop was recently closed down and its staff arrested after authorities discovered they had published Christian books.
Photocopying religious materials is similarly prohibited, and a worker at a copy shop told Bitter Winter that he was instructed to report anyone who was looking to make copies of religious material.
“If businesses are discovered, they could be fined as much as ten times their monthly income; or worst of all, workers could even be arrested,” the worker Bitter Winter. “If we are not sure if a text is religious, we must keep its copy and report it to authorities.”
According to ChinaAid, a Christian NGO, Chinese publications have started to replace the words “Christ,” “church,” and “Jesus” in their books with the initials of the pinyin terms for those words to avoid censorship. Some book titles, ChinaAid reported on October 20, obscured religious words with color blocks.
Pinyin is a Romanization system for Mandarin Chinese.
By replacing these words, Christians are hoping to evade the censors that would otherwise block their books from being read online. Bibles do not have an ISBN number in China and cannot be purchased at normal bookstores.
Last year, the Chinese Communist Party took down displays of the 10 Commandments in churches in several parts of the country, and replaced them with altered texts to better reflect Communist principles. Communist Party officials have also announced they are working on a Communist-approved version of the Bible.
Even long-dead Christians have been subject to persecution in China. Bitter Winter reported on October 16 that the previous month Chinese authorities authorities had demolished the tombstones of 20 Swedish missionaries, some of whom died over 100 years ago.
The missionaries were buried in Xiezhou town, which is administered by the Yanhu district of Yuncheng, a prefecture-level city in the northern province of Shanxi. Swedish Christian missionaries first established a presence in Yuncheng in 1888, and eventually built schools and hospitals in the area. Many people converted to Christianity as a result of the work of the Swedish missionaries, and their renovated gravesites had recently become an attraction for Christian tourists.
According to Bitter Winter, the Yanhu district government sent over 100 police personnel to the cemetery on the morning of September 12. The gravesites, and a house containing photographs of the missionaries, were bulldozed two hours later. Plants were planted on top of the gravesites.
Members belonging to the church that erected the tombstones were blacklisted, Bitter Winter reported. Those who lived near the cemetery were also taken in for questioning.
These reports of Christian persecution in China arose around the same time a high-ranking Vatican official chided a reporter for asking about Christian persecution in China.
(Story cotinues below)
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Despite the ongoing persecution of Christians in China, which has also seen Communist authorities bulldoze churches, arrest bishops, and offer bounties for information on underground religious services, on Oct. 22 the Vatican announced that it had agreed “to extend the experimental implementation phase” of the two-year provisional agreement first signed with the Chinese government on Sept. 22, 2018,
“The Holy See considers the initial application of the agreement -- which is of great ecclesial and pastoral value -- to have been positive, thanks to good communication and cooperation between the parties on the matters agreed upon, and intends to pursue an open and constructive dialogue for the benefit of the life of the Catholic Church and the good of Chinese people,” a communique from the Vatican Secretariat of State said.
On October 21, the day before it was announced the deal had been renewed, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin told journalists that while he was “happy” with the agreement, he also acknowledged “there are also many other problems that the agreement was not intended to solve.”
The cardinal said that the goal of the agreement is “unity of the Church” and that through this unity “it will become an instrument of evangelization,” according to a transcript provided by Italian newspaper Avvenire.
When asked about the persecution of Christians in China, Parolin responded: “But, what persecutions?”
“You have to use the words correctly. There are regulations that are imposed and which concern all religions, and certainly also concern the Catholic Church.”