Experts testified before Congress on Tuesday that the Communist Party of China has extensively expanded its digital capabilities to censor - and effectively erase - religion on the internet, the latest step in a process of enforcing communism through the eradication of faith that the regime refers to as "Sinicization."
"Sinicization," as Chinese officials describe it, is a process to force religions to conform to Chinese culture. The Chinese government does not consider Chinese culture separate from communist ideology, and so in practice "Sinicization" has largely meant forcing religious leaders to promote communist propaganda and replace their faith with worship of Xi Jinping. In some cases, Communist Party authorities have forced Christians and Buddhists to replace religious symbols in their homes with photos of Xi Jinping.
The panelists at the hearing, titled "Control of Religion in China Through Digital Authoritarianism," noted the implementation this year of a law that effectively outlaws all religious content online. Even members of the five legal religions in the country - the Chinese Catholic Church, the "Three-Self Patriotic" (Protestant) Church, Chinese Islam, Chinese Daoism, and state-controlled Buddhism - require a specific government license to post any religious content online, including videos of services or addresses from the clergy.
State repression, they added, was more severe against groups considered an elevated threat to communism, such as Tibetan Buddhists or Muslims in occupied East Turkistan, where China is currently engaging in genocide against indigenous people. It also affects, they added, the faithful abroad, as Beijing has endeavored to cut ties between those within its borders and believers in the free world.