The ban comes as China and the Vatican try to negotiate a deal over the appointment of bishops

The Chinese government has banned the sale of Bibles online, through distributors such as Amazon.

This appears to be the latest development in China’s moves to restrict Christianity’s influence in the country.

Bibles are only legally available at church bookstalls, not in bookshops, making Christianity the only major religion whose holy book is not freely available. Online retailers had effectively been a loophole making it easier for people to buy Bibles.

Discussion of Christianity on social media is also being severely restricted. In contrast, traditional Chinese religions including Buddhism and Taoism are actively promoted.

The ban comes as the Holy See and Beijing try to resolve a long conflict over the appointment of bishops. Catholics are currently split between bishops appointed by the state but excommunicated by the Vatican, and bishops appointed by the Vatican who have no legal status and have to operate effectively underground.

Hopes of finding a solution acceptable to both sides seem to have been dashed this week, with a statement from a senior government official that China will not allow any foreign influence in religious affairs in the country.

“I think there is no religion in human society that is above the state,” the official, Chen Zongrong, said on Tuesday.