Smuggling Bibles

Smuggling Bibles - China

Smuggling Bibles

Smuggling BiblesSmuggling Bibles into China takes many forms, from one Bible in a handbag (the Bible is presumed to be the traveler's personal copy) to one million Bibles smuggled in one night (see Project Pearl).

More typically, however, smuggling Bibles into China involves Christians carrying them into China across its southern border or through border check points while posing as tourists. In a typical Bible smuggling trip, volunteers fly to a city that borders China with a multiple entry visa and spend a few days to weeks repeatedly hauling Bibles across the border in suitcases and backpacks (above).


•  There is no penalty for Westerners caught smuggling Bibles, and for a fine, the confiscated Bibles can be retrieved on the way out of China.

•  Bible smuggling is a faith-edifying experience for most Western Christians, who also have opportunities to witness to English-speaking customs guards when caught.


•  The Bibles being smuggled cost at least $2.50 to $3.00 each. Allocate the cost of the airfare, lodging, food, transportation to and from the border, transportation on the other side of the border, fines to retrieve the confiscated Bibles, and the cost per Bible rises to $7-9. Allocate as well the overhead for the Bible smuggling organization's warehouses, personnel, their lodging, food, and other costs, and it rises even higher. Compared to the other options now available, smuggling Bibles is an expensive way to deliver the Word of God to the underground church in China.

•  China's underground church Christians face greater persecution (see Christian persecution in China) when caught with smuggled Bibles than when caught with identical Bibles printed by Amity Printing.

Does this mean Bible smuggling organizations should close?

No, but they should aim their operations at countries like North Korea that are as closed to the Bible today as China was 50 years ago and where Bible smuggling is needed far more than to China. If the Chinese government begins to restrict Amity’s printing volume or reverts to requiring traceable "registration" to buy Amity Bibles, Bible smuggling operations can be re-aimed at China with full force.

2018 Update

Bible smugglers to China may be called back to active duty due to two developments.

First, by 2020, Chinese Communist Party will have blanketed China with 600,000,000 face recognition-enabling CCTV cameras (see Christian persecution in China), including all areas inside and around China's 60,000 Three Self churches. Thirty years ago, underground church Christians who bought Bibles at the Three Self churches were either required to show their identification or tailed until their congregations were uncovered. The Chinese government soon will be able to achieve the same end with far more precision and speed by using CCTV cameras, artificial intelligence and big data, so supplying house churches with Bibles bought from Three Self churches soon will become far more risky.

Second, the Chinese Communist Party is said to be working on a new Chinese translation of the Bible that has been stripped of content that the Chinese government finds objectionable or inconvenient (see Sinicization of Christianity and religious freedom in China). If such a "Bible" becomes the only one that is allowed for distribution inside China, smuggling real Chinese Bibles once again will become a key priority.

Given the Chinese government's aforementioned surveillance capabilities, however, more caution and creativity will be required than in the past, and using remote unmonitored border and coastal areas as crossing points may warrant due consideration.