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Hong Kong Christians seek true religious freedom in China


A year before the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Hong Kong Christian leaders have asked China to grant true religious freedom in the country.

"Even though Beijing tried to give the impression it would improve its human rights record, when it was applying to host the 2008 Olympic Games, there is no substantial evidence to show its human rights situation has improved," the Rev. Kwok Nai-Wang, a consultant to the Christian Conference of Asia, told Ecumenical News International.

Kwok, a Hong Kong-based theologian, noted that there is a proposal for Bibles to be available at hotels during the Olympics, but stressed that the presence of religious freedom in China exists only when the faithful do not challenge the political status quo.

Kwok said, "A genuine freedom of religions is about freedom of beliefs, and the faithful can care about the poor and social injustice."

The official Protestant church in China emphasises a concept called the "self-propagation of faith" said Kwok, the former general secretary of the Hong Kong Christian Council. He asserts that foreign Christian guests should have the right to share their faith with local people, so long as the guests respect their "feelings".

Rose Wu, director of the Hong Kong Christian Institute, told ENI the policy of self-propagation does not coincide with the international understanding of religious freedom. "When we talk about religious freedom, it means that people can preach, express their beliefs and share their faith freely," she explained.

Wu said she believed that foreign evangelical Christians who want to preach at the Olympics might not achieve positive results, because she believes evangelisation is a long-term interaction of faith and life.

She is also concerned about the mass development of Beijing. "The Chinese government has spent so many resources hosting the Beijing Olympics, which is questionable if the livelihoods of local people are ignored. Don’t forget a government should take care of its people first, and not promote its so-called ‘international image’ at all costs," said Wu.

Meanwhile, Eli Chan Ka-Wai, associate director of the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee, said that the International Olympic Committee had done nothing to monitor labour rights during preparations for the Beijing Games.

"With the new leadership in China, there is tighter monitoring and control of civil society movements," the Christian labour worker said. "And when China is searching for higher industrial productivity, local labour faces much greater pressure."  

(c) Ecumenical News International