A Christian from China's Yunnan province has been heavily fined for simply holding a Bible study online. On 11th August, Brother Zhang Wenli received a notice of administrative punishment from the local Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau (ERAB), after being accused of hosting an illegal religious education training session.
The Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness noted that Wenli also received a fine of 20,000 RMB (approximately 2,870 USD), issued by the Lincang City Linxiang District ERAB.
International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that the notice quoted the 2018 Regulations on Religious Affairs, Article 41, which states that "Non-religious groups, non-religious schools, non-religious activity sites, and temporary activity sites not appropriately designated as religious ones cannot conduct religious activities, accepting religious donations, carrying out religious training, […]”.
Brother Zhang was asked to cease and desist his ministry activities with immediate effect, and, if he holds any objection to the request, he must submit written appeal to the ERAB within three days of receiving the notice.
ICC said that case shows that it will be "increasingly risky for any Christian in China to hold Bible study or conduct church activities online".
"From Wuhan, Sichuan, to Yunnan, the local authorities have been keeping their eyes on Christians, especially those from house churches," the group noted. "Many of their online activities were bugged and interrupted. The objective of their action is to coerce the house church members to join state-sanctioned churches."