A Chinese Catholic deacon holds a bible at an underground church. Photo: Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

Online retailers in China are no longer allowed to sell the Christian Bible, reports the New York Times, as the Chinese government continues its crackdown on religion and the influence of Christianity in the country.

Why it matters: Censorship has always been an issue in China and it continues accelerate, especially within its digital borders, as President Xi Jinping consolidates his power. The government's efforts to ban online sales of the Bible serve as the latest example of Xi's attempts to assert his control over what he sees as promoting China's traditional values.

Details: The government announced the ban over the weekend, and it took effect this week. "By Thursday, internet searches for the Bible came up empty on leading online Chinese retailers, such as JD.com, Taobao, and Amazon," the Times writes.

  • The Times also notes that unlike other major religions in China, Christianity is the only one whose holy text cannot be sold through "the normal commercial channels," and online retailers served as a loophole to getting around that.
  • Yes, but other religious texts, like Taoist classics, Buddhist sutras, and the Quran are still available online.

Timing: The ban follows a series of recent government regulations that have successfully clamped down on Christianity and Islam while promoting other religions, such as Buddhism and Taoism — religions that Xi sees as representing more traditional values. It also comes as China and the Vatican are in negotiations to bring an end to the country's underground Catholic churches.

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Deadly storm Zeta pummels parts of Alabama and Florida

A satellite image of Hurricane Zeta. Photo: National Hurricane Center/NOAA

Former Hurricane Zeta has killed at least one person after a downed power line electrocuted a 55-year-old in Louisiana as the storm's powerful winds and heavy rainfall moved into Alabama overnight.

What's happening: After "battering southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi," Zeta weakened to a tropical storm over central Alabama early on Thursday, per the National Hurricane Center.

Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases

Catholics go through containment protocols including body-temperature measurement and hands-sanitisation before entering the Saint Christopher Parish Church, Taipei City, Taiwan, in July. Photo: Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taiwan on Thursday marked no locally transmitted coronavirus cases for 200 days, as the island of 23 million people's total number of infections reported stands at 550 and the COVID-19 death toll at seven.

Why it matters: Nowhere else in the world has reached such a milestone. While COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S. and Europe, Taiwan's last locally transmitted case was on April 12. Experts credit tightly regulated travel, early border closure, "rigorous contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine and universal mask wearing," along with the island state's previous experience with the SARS virus, per Bloomberg.

Go deeper: As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China

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