The Chinese government has banned all online sales of the Christian Bible, the New York Times reported Thursday.
China’s biggest online retailers have reportedly already ended all Bible sales. Bibles sales are still permitted at Church bookstores in China, and some analyses or commentaries of the Bible are still sold on major retail sites like Taobao and Amazon.
While China’s online censorship is well documented, leading critics to coin the phrase “The Great Firewall of China,” the Times links the crackdown to longstanding state tension between the government and the Vatican, which has historically opposed Communism.
The Bible is the only holy text explicitly banned from being sold online, while other religious texts are still available. The Times report ties the recent move to President Xi Jinping’s “efforts to promote traditional values” and regulate the influence of both Christianity and the West. Presidential term limits were abolished in China, paving the way for Xi to rule indefinitely.
China’s government has broad authority to regulate retailers and companies in the country. In March, Airbnb announced it would automatically, and without notification, register all guests’ information with Chinese police into a national database. Human rights groups have also criticized the government’s decision to ban burqas, saying it unfairly targets the country’s Muslim religious minority.