Authorities in China prevent pastors live-streaming services despite Covid-19 shutdown

7 April 2020

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Authorities in China are maintaining their crackdown on churches online, even during Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, preventing Christians from accessing live-streamed church services.

“Our first and only online gathering was blocked by the government soon after it started,” said a pastor of an unofficial house church in the south-eastern province of Jiangxi. The church had suffered police harassment before the coronavirus outbreak, and was forced to change venue at least five times.

In the eastern province of Shandong, a pastor’s online service was stopped less than 20 minutes after it started on 9 February. A few days later, he unsuccessfully attempted another online platform.

The streets of Wuhan were deserted during the Covid-19 quarantine and all churches remain closed at this time [Image credit: SISTEMA 12]

Authorities in Shandong province underlined their actions on 23 February by issuing a notice demanding that all churches stop live-streaming services immediately.

On 28 February, the United Front Work Department of the Nanhu district in Jiaxing, a prefecture-level city in the eastern province of Zhejiang, ordered all live steaming to be stopped within a week, and an “immediate halt” to WeChat audio broadcasts.

Online activities by individual Christians are also heavily monitored. On 24 January, the day after the Covid-19 lockdown in Wuhan was imposed, members of a state-registered three-self church in Shangqui city, Henan province, received a notice via their pastor to cease all WeChat groups.

A pastor said, “The Public Security Bureau has information on all members of every WeChat group, and network inspections are carried out, [and are] especially strict during the pandemic.”

The authorities are deploying, “Measures for the Management of Religious Information on the Internet” to prevent churches live streaming, which included a ban on uploading videos to the internet that violate “national religious policies” introduced in January 2019.

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