The producers of a digital Bible have been left with no choice but to remove their app from Apple’s App Store in China.
The removal came as Chinese officials have mounted pressure on Apple to remove several religious apps. Apple recently acquiesced to China’s requests to remove a similar app for the Quran.
According to Catholic News Agency, Olive Tree Bible Software was informed that they needed a permit to disseminate religious texts in China. The company noted that the problem arose when they tried to update the app. Their statement explained:
“Since we did not have the permit and needed to get our app update approved and out to customers, we removed our Bible app from China’s App Store.”
China’s relationship with the Church and its doctrine is a complex one. In 2018, the Vatican entered into an agreement with the Communist country on the appointment of bishops. CNA notes that the details have never been fully revealed, but in essence, China chooses candidates for the bishopric that they deem acceptable and the Vatican can select their prelates from this pool. In 2020, this agreement was renewed until 2022.
CBN News reports, however, that Olive Tree has not given up on China yet. The company, which has been producing Bible apps since the 1990s, has stated that they are working to receive the proper permit. A spokesperson said:
“We are currently reviewing the requirements to obtain the necessary permit with the hope that we can restore our app to China’s App Store and continue to distribute the Bible worldwide.”
Olive Tree has been the most vocal, but they are not the only Bible app that has been removed from the App Store. CNA notes that even hard copies of the Bible are no longer available for purchase in China.
For Apple’s part, the move falls in line with their policies regarding regional regulations. The corporation directed the BBC to its Human Rights Policy, which states: “We’re required to comply with local laws, and at times there are complex issues about which we may disagree with governments.”
These developments have come at a time when China has been tightening restrictions on the internet. In May, the country removed a Christian chat app called WeChat for violations of “Internet User Public Account Information Services Management Provisions.”
Secular apps have fallen prey to China’s laws as well. Permit requirement laws have caused Amazon’s audiobook library, Audible, to close shop in mainland China. Microsoft’s LinkedIn also recently announced they would close their social media app in China after the country blocked profiles of some journalists.