The logo of WeChat, a popular Chinese multi-purpose application for messaging, social media and mobile payments. The Chinese government is accused of tightening surveillance of such applications.
The Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission has launched a campaign across China to crack down on what it considers "the illegal activities" of commercial websites and media outlets.Although the campaign claims to target commercial web platforms, websites and social media accounts managed by church people have also been affected by the move.Father Paul, who is responsible for the WeChat public account of a diocese in northern China, said officials asked him to delete certain content. They said the content violated the provisions of the Regulations on the Administration of Religious Information Services on the Internet that came to effect in March, the priest said.The officials also asked him not to publish religious content and delete what had been already published. They also urged him to pay "attention to public opinion on the internet" and "not to give the foreign media an excuse to attack the government."The priests said the officials' demands show that they "are neither confident about legitimacy of their own regulation nor of their own system."
Father Zhao, another priest from northern China, said authorities started monitoring the Church's social network when churches were closed early this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.During those days he was asked to stop the livestreaming of Masses for his parishioners. Officials said the regulations do not allow people "to disseminate religious beliefs via the internet, especially on livestreaming platforms," Father Zhao said.He said authorities were worried that priests might criticize the government online. Besides, they also thought online Masses could attract many people to the Church, weakening the communist party, he said."They do not have the confidence and the courage to face reality. They can only suppress others and rely on violence to solve problems. This is a tyranny of dictatorship,” he said.