Impending Internet Crackdown on Faith, Man Sentenced 7.5 Years for Social Media Post
On December 21, 2021, the Chinese Communist party’s official mouthpiece, Global Times, announced that all online faith-based activity must be registered with the regime.
The measures, which are jointly enacted by the National Religious Affairs Administration, Cyberspace Administration of China, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Ministry of Public Security, and Ministry of State Security, only allow state-approved religious activities, which must receive a permit from the state.
“[Outside of state-approved activities,] no organization or individual is allowed to do missionary work online, or conduct religious education and training, publish preaching content, or forward such content,” according to the Global Times.
Additionally, “Online religious contents that incite subversion of state power, violate the principle of independence and self-management in religious undertakings, induce minors to believe in religion are prohibited.”
The latter would result in the suppression of any independent information for faith-based groups, such as the dissemination of information on Falun Gong and its persecution.
A recent case is that of Mr. Li Bin, a 50-year-old Falun Gong practitioner in Botou City, Hebei Province. For posting Falun Gong-related information on WeChat, the most popular social media platform in China, Li was arrested at home on April 28, 2021, by officers from Anyang City, Henan Province.
Despite the Anyang City being about 250 miles away from Li’s hometown, the police in Henan Province have had no hesitation in traveling to other provinces to arrest him.
Reports from Minghui.org have shown that the Henan police also arrested practitioners in other provinces or centrally controlled municipalities, such as Hebei, Chongqing, and Shandong, for sharing information about Falun Gong on WeChat since 2019.
For Li’s trial, his family hired a lawyer to represent him. When the lawyer reached out to the court, however, he was repeatedly told by a prosecutor of Wenfeng District Procuratorate in Anyang that they didn’t have his case on file when the lawyer requested to review the case document.
When the lawyer later visited Li at the detention center, he was shocked to learn that the court had already held a hearing of the case. The authorities not only indicted and tried Li without informing his lawyer, but the judge also appointed a lawyer to represent and enter a guilty plea for Li.
Li’s wife was informed by the Wenfeng District Court that he was sentenced to 7.5 years with 50,000 yuan fine. He has appealed with the Anyang City Intermediate Court.
In light of the new internet regulations on faith, there are concerns that the persecution against Falun Gong and other religious groups will worsen.
According to Levi Browde, Executive Director of Falun Dafa Information Center:
“Local, low-level officials sometimes look the other way or take measures into their own hands [to help the movement’s followers avoid persecution] because they are sympathetic and understand the unjust nature [of the government’s policies]… In these cases, these new restrictions could make it more difficult for local officials to do that, and thus the overall impact could be an intensification of persecution.”