A Chinese netizen seeking to access and translate some materials related to 16th Century Protestant reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin received a stern warning from the Chinese Communist Party’s Internet Surveillance Agency last month. Voice of the Martyrs Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley says Christians worldwide should be concerned and should “make every effort today” to make such content available to Chinese Christians via media other than the Internet, like shortwave radio.

The content that the Chinese Christian was trying to translate via Internet did not involve any national security issues,” says Representative Foley. “It simply said, ‘[Martin Luther] was the first Protestant to successfully challenge papal authority, and Luther’s theological inquiry was closely linked to his personal doubts and spiritual struggles. As he addressed these dilemmas, his call for reforming the Roman Catholic Church became more urgent. Luther urged organizational and theological reforms within the church, advocating for greater autonomy for local bishops from Rome.’” 

The Chinese Communist Party’s Internet Surveillance Agency blocked and warned against translations involving the contents of Martin Luther.

Representative Foley says that in response the Christian received a warning from the Chinese Internet network information management organization, which read:  

“When translating any content, Chinese people must strictly abide by national laws and regulations, adhere to the core socialist values, actively spread positive energy, and safeguard the country’s cultural security and ideological security. Regarding religious content, we should uphold a scientific spirit and attitude, respect history, and respect the freedom of belief under different cultural backgrounds.” 

According to Representative Foley, the message from the Chinese Internet network information management organization also said: “At the same time, we must also recognize soberly that any religion must adapt to Chinese socialist society. In China, we encourage religious groups and believers to love their country and religion, actively guide religions to adapt to socialist society, and contribute to promoting social harmony, national unity, and cultural prosperity.” 

A Voice of the Martyrs Korea volunteer records a broadcast for the ministry’s twice-daily Chinese radio broadcast.

Representative Foley says the government warning may have been triggered by a high number of sensitive words in the short passage for translation. The Luther quote contains words like ‘challenge’, ‘struggle’, ‘reform’, and ‘autonomy’, which Chinese search engines and online translation programs are likely trained to monitor,” says Representative Foley. 

But Representative Foley says it is clear that the Reformation content was not simply blocked by a general censorship algorithm and that the Chinese government is objecting to more than a few trigger words. 

“The same Chinese netizen tried to translate three chapters of material related to the life and thought of John Calvin and about how his writings are systematic, precise, and logical,” says Representative Foley. The translation engine responded with another warning and then blocked the translation of the content.’” 

Representative Foley believes Christians around the world should be concerned. 

“The Chinese government is trying to ‘Sinicize’ Christianity, making it a religion that promotes Communism, patriotism, and Chinese nationalism,” says Representative Foley. “But in Colossians 3:11 the Apostle Paul wrote that for Christians ‘there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.’ In 1 Peter 2:11 the apostle wrote that we are ‘aliens and strangers in the world’. We must remember that there is no such thing as ‘Korean Christians’ or ‘Chinese Christians’ or ‘American Christians’. There are only Christians living as aliens and strangers in Korea, China, and America. Our primary allegiance is to Christ and our brothers and sisters in Christ, and only secondarily to our nations. Luther and Calvin and the other Protestant reformers taught that biblical truth, and so the Chinese government is actively working to block their words from reaching Chinese people.”  

16th Century Protestant reformers John Calvin (left) and Martin Luther (right)

Representative Foley says that expanding religious censorship of the Chinese government to include figures like Luther and Calvin is one of the reasons why Voice of the Martyrs Korea broadcasts Christian content into China via shortwave radio twice per day. People sometimes think of shortwave radio as outdated technology, but the US government and Chinese government now broadcast more daily shortwave content into China than at any time in history, says Representative Foley. That shows the power of reaching people through seemingly low-tech media like radio: Its actually much easier and cheaper for the Chinese government to block Luther and Calvin on the Internet than on the radio. Internet censorship can be done at low cost using AI (artificial intelligence). But shortwave radio is much harder and more expensive for them to jam. AI cant stop it. Chinese citizens know this and are once again turning to shortwave radio for uncensored information as the Internet becomes more and more a dangerous trap for Christians and a propaganda tool for their government. 

Individuals interested in learning about or supporting Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s daily shortwave radio broadcasts into China and its work in partnership with the house church Christians of China can visit or give via electronic transfer to: 


KB Bank: 463501-01-243303 

Account Holder: ()순교자의소리 

Please note “China” on the transfer. 

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