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China forces removal of Bible and Quran apps

Apple removes religious apps from App Store in China after complaints from officials
China forces removal of Bible and Quran apps

A Christian man reads the Bible. (Photo: AFP)

Published: October 22, 2021 09:43 AM GMT
Updated: October 22, 2021 09:51 AM GMT

American tech giant Apple has removed a Bible app and a Quran app from its App Store in China following requests from officials, triggering condemnation from rights groups over a further violation of religious freedom by the communist state.  

Apple confirmed to the BBC that the apps, Quran Majeed and Bible App by Olive Tree, have been taken down. Chinese officials complained that the apps violated laws by hosting religious texts illegally.

"We are required to comply with local laws, and at times there are complex issues about which we may disagree with governments and other stakeholders on the right path forward, " Apple reportedly told BBC, explaining its human rights policy.

Quran Majeed has over 5 million downloads on the Google Play Store, while Bible App by Olive Tree has just over 1 million downloads, according to Business Insider.

Quran Majeed is produced by Pakistan Data Management Services. The company says it has over 35 million users globally including 1 million users in China. It said Apple informed it that “the app has been removed from the China App Store because it includes content that requires additional documentation from Chinese authorities.”

Olive Tree Bible Software, founded in 2000 in Spokane, Washington, creates biblical software and mobile apps. It is an electronic publisher of Bible versions, study tools, Bible study tools and Christian eBooks for mobile, tablet and desktop devices.

Christian organizations and clergy face surveillance and penalties if they violate various Chinese laws regulating religious groups

Another American tech giant, Microsoft, recently announced it was closing its career-focused site LinkedIn in China as Chinese laws pose extreme difficulties. LinkedIn faced criticism recently for closing the accounts of some journalists following complaints from Chinese authorities.

US-based Christian group International Christian Concern (ICC) expressed concern over the removal of the Bible and Quran apps, citing that China had recently shut down Christian WeChat accounts, removed Bible apps and jailed Christians for selling electronic Bible players “illegally.”

Communist China presents itself as an atheist state officially. Although it recognizes the legal entity of five organized religions — Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism, Islam and Taoism — religious organizations and activities are strictly controlled.

Christian organizations and clergy face surveillance and penalties if they violate various Chinese laws regulating religious groups, including the 2018 regulations on religious affairs. The rules require all religious organizations and clergy to be registered with the state and prohibit any activity that the state deems illegal and unauthorized    

China has faced a global backlash over its “genocidal treatment” of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang Autonomous Region.

US-based Open Doors ranked China 17th out 50 countries where Christians face extreme forms of oppression in its 2021 World Watch Report.

“The new restrictions on the internet, social media and non-governmental organizations, as well as religious regulations ... are strictly enforced and represent a serious restriction on freedom,” Open Doors said.

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