The Bible suddenly disappeared from major ecommerce sites in China, right as the government outlined the country’s stance on religious freedom inside China.

On Taobao and Amazon China, searches for the Bible in Chinese show results of Bible-related studies, book covers and simplified Bible stories, instead of the original book itself. Nothing at all comes up when you search for the Bible (or the Koran) on JD.com.

Searches for the Chinese version of the Bible show no relevant results. (Picture: JD.com)

And searching for it on Weidian, the shopping mini program in WeChat, results in the message: “Products are not displayed according to relevant laws and regulations.”

No official outlet clarified whether the book was banned or not, and a number of Weibo posts about the Bible’s disappearance also vanished from the platform.

On Tuesday, the State Council Information Office published a white paper titled “China’s Policies and Practices on Protecting Freedom of Religious Belief”, in which it said that the freedom of religious belief is protected in the country -- but stresses that religions in China must “be Chinese in orientation” and must adapt to a socialist society.

Officially, only state-controlled churches are allowed to operate in China. “Underground” churches have been able to operate, but it’s becoming difficult for them as the government tightens control of religious activities.

A report by Yang Fenggang, a scholar at Purdue University, estimates there are 93 million to 115 million Protestants in China, even though the state says the number is much lower. The government says there are only 38 million Protestants and six million Catholics in the country.