Chinese President Xi Jinping is shown on a screen through digitally decorated glass during the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, China in this November 23, 2020 file photo. The Chinese Communist Party is seeking to expand its device to monitoring and curbing religious activities in cyberspace by training and deploying hundreds of “listeners” across the country, raising concerns among rights groups. (CNS photo/Aly Song, Reuters)

HONG KONG (CNS) – The Chinese Communist Party is seeking to expand its apparatus to monitor and curb religious activities in cyberspace by training and deploying hundreds of “listeners” across the country, raising concerns among advocacy groups Rights.

Under the leadership of the Communist Party, the Ethnic and Religious Commission of Guangdong Province in southern China held a test in early June for the first group of listeners of public religious information services on the Internet, reported the China Christian Daily.

Ucanews.com, reporting on the China Christian Daily story, said the test result was announced in late June and showed 127 people qualified for auditor positions.

The Internet Religious Information Services Agency was established in March after China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs announced the “Administrative Measures for Internet Religious Information Services” at the end of the year. ‘last year.

The measures were formulated by several state agencies in accordance with relevant laws in China, such as the “Cyber ​​Security Law of the People’s Republic of China”, “Administrative Measures for Internet Information Services” and the revised “Regulations on Religious Affairs”.

International Christian Concern, a US-based Christian rights group, called the decision to deploy listeners “part of a wider effort to crack down on the spread of religious information online”.

The regulation regarding religious information services on the Internet insists on “the integration of the protection of religious freedom of citizens with the maintenance of national ideological security, and the combination of safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of religious believers with the practice of the socialist hard core”. values,” wrote China Christian Daily reporter and commentator John Wang on December 23, 2021.

In addition to detailing measures to standardize religious information services on the Internet, the regulations state that online preaching must be organized and carried out by religious groups, religious schools, temples and churches that have obtained a “license service of religious information on the Internet”.

No organization or individual is permitted to conduct virtual missionary work and religious education and training, post sermon content or transmit related content, except as specified in Articles 15 and 16 of the regulations, Mr. .Wang. It also prohibits the organization, live streaming and recordings of religious activities online.

Although it recognizes the legal presence of five religions – Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Catholicism and Protestantism – China controls all religious activities through state-sanctioned bodies that report to the communist authorities at local and central levels.

Since President Xi Jinping came to power, legal and illegal religious groups have faced further crackdowns under the guise of several policies, including the 2018 Religious Affairs Regulations.

In its latest report on religious freedom, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom criticized China for deteriorating conditions for religious freedom.

“The Chinese communist government has created a high-tech surveillance state, using facial recognition and artificial intelligence to monitor and harass Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong and other religions,” the commission noted.

Independent experts estimate that between 900,000 and 1.8 million Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other Muslims were held in more than 1,300 concentration camps in Xinjiang, he added.