Beijing’s gigantic new airport terminal will be open on Friday, well ahead of the Olympics games held in August. The new terminal is described as the biggest building in the world, and is even larger than all the terminals of London Heathrow Airport put together.
The Great Game is a source of great pride to the Chinese. Meanwhile, the impact of the games may also place some constraints on China’s behaviour. The argument often used as a justification to award the games to Beijing is that it may press Beijing to rein in its human rights abuses.
What I particular concern is the impact of the games on the policy regarding the mainland’s underground Christian ‘house churches’.
As reported recently by SCMP, a Hong Kong newspaper , speculation growing in Christian circles that Beijing may want to seek accomodation with the mainland’s large and rapidly growing underground ‘house church’ movement.
Almost for six decades since the China Communist Party has taken control of China, Underground Christian churches has been constantly and severely repressed by the government.
Pastors and congregations of house churches regularly meet in private homes to worship, have small groups of bible studies and prayers. That’s why they are called the ‘house churches’. They have been refusing contact with the state-run and government-sanctioned Protestant churches – Three-Self Patriotic Movement, citing their freedom of conscience.
Underground churches pastors are the major targets of persecution by the state. They are always sentenced on the charges of ‘membership of a cult’, ‘disrupting social order’, ‘endangering national laws’, etc.
The famous documentary film ‘The Cross – Jesus in China’, which depicts how China’s underground churches members living in God’s glory and endurance while facing constant persecutions from the government. The four-episode film was shown in London, Paris, New York, Washington. DVD in English language is also available.
It was recently reported that there are some indications Beijing may have a policy shift in handling underground churches. President Hu, as quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying, ‘We must exert ourselves to the utmost to unite all the forces that can be united and to muster……the Communist Party and government must improve their handling of church members ‘in line with the new situation’. ‘
There were some recent reports that some underground churches pastors were pardoned and released – which is considered as a rare move.
Some experts suggest that China’s decades-old repression policy on underground churches had failed. Unofficial figures show that the mainland’s house church members, mostly protestants, outnumber the official protestant church’s 17 million by at least two to one.
Francois Carrard, a former International Olympics Committee director general, says the intense spotlight of this summer’s games will force China’s government to enhance its reputation. “If the Games were not awarded to China the (human rights) situation would not have progressed……This is a contribution to progress, an accelerating factor.’
China declared yesterday that it is willing to resume a long-stalled human rights dialogue with the United States, it is said that such move is to improve its image before the Olympic Games.
Simon Long, Asia editor of The Economist, suggests that ‘In practice, there may have been some slight easing of repression in China, but it has had next to nothing to do with the Olympics. The impact of the games on human rights is likely to be on balance negative. The world spotlight will invite those with grievances to try to air them. The government will do its utmost to stop them……’
The same day which Beijing’s giant airport will be celebrating its grand opening, also reminds me that it marks the beginning of the ‘Shockwave’ – a global event which will take place between 29 February – 2 March – to unite in prayer for persecuted Christians all over the world.