China cracks down on sale of bible amid Vatican talks 

China appears to have banned the bible from being sold online or in large book stores, as Beijing and the Vatican negotiate a historic agreement.

Searches for bibles on major e-commerce platforms and Taobao brought up no results, while staff at one of Beijing’s biggest book stores said they no longer sell the book.

The removal of the book comes amid tensions between China and Rome over a landmark deal that some observers believe is close to being signed.

The agreement, which would give the Vatican more control over the appointment of bishops in China, has sparked concern among some Chinese Catholics.

They believe recognising Beijing’s role in the Catholic church would represent a betrayal of their faith.

China’s ruling Communist Party is officially atheist, but the Chinese government recognises Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism and Catholicism.

Chinese leaders have called for increased efforts to "Sinocise" religion, in comments which are seen as being part of a wider clampdown on Western ideas.

A woman prays during a mass on Holy Saturday, part of Easter celebrations Credit:

Christians in China have complained on social media that people are being prohibited from buying the bible online. 

The websites of the huge Xinhua Book Stores in Beijing’s Wangfujing and Xidan shopping districts also showed that there were no bibles for sale. 

A staff member at the Wangfujing store told The Telegraph that the bible had been removed from sale for some time. She did not know why.

Authorities have only confirmed that warnings have been issued to some online retailers.

The Global Times said regulators "held talks" with "about selling illegal products, publications and other printed materials online."

The company "had failed to regulate products and so caused a negative social impact", the regulators said.

China on Monday released its first white paper on religious freedom in more than two decades.

It pledged to protect religious freedom, but also called on religions to adapt to a socialist society.

Additional reporting by Christine Wei