In efforts to bring Christianity further under government control, authorities in China have erased the words "Bible," "God" and "Christ" from classic children’s stories, including Robinson Crusoe.
China’s Ministry of Education recently introduced a new school textbook to help fifth-grade students “understand other cultures,” according to Asia News. Included in the textbook are four popular stories by foreign writers, including Robinson Crusoe, The Little Match Girl, and Vanka. However, each story is censored to remove any religious reference.
In Daniel Defoe’s 18th century classic novel, castaway Robinson Crusoe discovers three Bibles inside a shipwreck, which he then uses as his moral compass while stranded on the island. However, the Chinese version eliminates the word "Bible,” instead noting that Crusoe happened upon “a few books.”
The original The Little Match Girl, written by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson, includes the line, “when a star falls, a soul goes to be with God.” The redacted Chinese version, however, reads, “when a star falls, a person leaves this world.”
Anton Chekhov’s story Vanka includes a passage where a prayer is said inside a church, during which the word “Christ” is mentioned several times. In the Chinese version, that section is left out and every mention of the word Christ has been erased.
Asia News notes that the censorship of Christian religious elements isn’t isolated to elementary schools. Several college professors also condemn classics containing religious words and confiscate them. Among these are The Count of Montecristo by A. Dumas, Resurrection by Lev Tolstoy, and Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo.
In 2018, China’s ruling Communist Party implemented rules on religious practice and announced a five-year plan to make Christianity more compatible with socialism. Efforts to make the faith more “Chinese” reportedly included a rewrite of the New Testament using Buddhist scripture and Confucian teachings to establish a “correct understanding” of the text.
"There are outlines that the new Bible should not look westernized and [should look] Chinese and reflect Chinese ethics of Confucianism and socialism," Bob Fu, founder of ChinaAid, previously told The Christian Post.
"The Old Testament will be messed up. The New Testament will have new commentaries to interpret it."
Additionally, Bibles are no longer available for purchase online, and authorities recently arrested seven employees of an electronics store for selling audio bibles, according to persecution watchdog International Christian Concern.
The CCP has also carried out a widespread crackdown on all religious institutions, including bulldozing churches and mosques, imprisoning Christian believers, and barring Tibetan children from Buddhist religious studies.
This week, Vice President Mike Pence met with an interfaith coalition of religious freedom advocates to discuss what the United States can do to hold China accountable as it continues to persecute religious believers.
"Up until this point, the United States never had a strategy against China's violations of human rights," David Curry, head of the international Christian persecution advocacy group Open Doors USA, told The Christian Post. "They've recognized them as a country particular concern, but it's not escalated. And there haven't been any punishments directly associated with it. So we think that might be something they would consider, as far as punishments go."
Open Doors USA ranks China as the 27th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution on its 2019 World Watch List.