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Printing troubles spark Catholic Bible shortage in Hong Kong

Franciscan-run group says they have run out of stock of Chinese Catholic Bibles for the inability to print new ones
A Christian man holding a Bible

A Christian man holding a Bible. (Photo: AFP)

Published: August 02, 2022 11:29 AM GMT

Catholics in Hong Kong are bracing for a shortage of Chinese-language Bibles amid the unwillingness of publishing houses in mainland China to print the sacred Christian scripture, says a religious order specializing in biblical and archaeological studies.

The Studium Biblicum Franciscanum (SBF) of Hong Kong, run by the Franciscans, announced last week that the society is running out of Chinese Bibles as it is unable to print Bibles in mainland Chinese printing presses.  

Franciscan Friar Raymond Mary Yeung, a member of the SBF, expressed concerns over looming Bible shortages in a post on Facebook, on July 25.

“Studium Biblicum Franciscanum has been unable to find a suitable printing house for the Catholic Chinese Bibles and therefore has not been able to print the new Catholic Chinese Bibles,” Friar Yeung reportedly said, according to ChinaAid.  

The friar also pointed out, “at present, all of the Society’s stock of Catholic Chinese Bibles has been sold to bookstores, and if the printing problem is not resolved in the near future, there will be a shortage.” 

Earlier, friar Yeung spoke to the Christian Times in Hong Kong and revealed that in the past, the Society’s Bible was printed by a printing house in mainland China, but it stopped printing by saying they “must apply to the government in order to print.”

The friar said they have been told since the volume of the Bible is not much, the printing house is unable to make sufficient business profits. Due to the two factors, other printing houses in mainland China have not expressed interest to print Chinese Bibles, but mostly to avoid ‘trouble’ from the authorities.

He said that is a bit difficult to find a new printing house, because printing Bibles requires a certain level of technical skills, such as staple binding technology, “which is not available in Hong Kong.” 

Friar Yeung also said that their society is out of stock as all Bibles have been sent to bookstores and schools in parishes.

ChinaAid reported that since 1988, the SBF version of the Chinese Bible has been printed by Nanjing Amity Printing, a joint venture between the Amity Foundation and the United Bible Societies (UBS). It is the only printing company in mainland China designated to print Christian Bibles and hymnals and has been printing Bibles for the Catholic Church in China since 1994.

The reluctance of the company to continue printing Chinese Bibles for the Catholic Church is believed to have stemmed from China’s renewed crackdown on religious activities including faith-based publishing, both online and offline.

In 2018, shortly after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) adopted the New Regulations on Religious Affairs, the Chinese government banned online bookstores from selling Bibles.

Last year, American tech giant Apple removed a Bible and a Quran app from App Store following requests from Chinese officials.

The same year, a court in Guangdong province jailed four Christians for selling electronic devices that can play Bible verses.   

In August last year, a Christian couple was jailed for seven years and their properties sold out to pay for monetary fines for running a publishing house that printed and sold Christian books including Bibles.

However, other faith-based publications including Protestants are able to print Bible in Hong Kong without trouble.

The Christian Times reported that Revered Liao Jinyuan, the Hong Kong director general of the Worldwide Bible Society, a Protestant group, noted that the Society’s Bibles are mainly printed in Hong Kong and South Korea.

The printing situation in the mainland has not affected their operation so far, he said.

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