Thursday, November 8, 2007

Yes, and no - you can't take BIBLES (in the plural) into the Beijing Olympic Village

Followup to two [1] [2] recent posts.

From China View:

China Thursday rebuked reports that the it would ban foreign athletes from bringing Bibles to the Olympic village during the Beijing Olympic Games next year, dismissing them as "sheer rumors".

"We have taken note of the reports and checked with the relevant authorities. The facts prove that the reports are sheer rumors," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a routine press conference.

The Catholic News Agency published a report in November citing the Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport and Spanish daily La Razon as saying that Bibles were on a list of "prohibited objects" in the Olympic village.

"The Chinese government has never ever issued such a rule, nor any such statement," Liu said. "China's religious affairs authorities and the Beijing Olympic organizing committee have not - and could not - issue a rule banning the Bible in the Olympic village."

China has always respected and protected the religious freedom of foreigners living in China in line with laws and regulations, he said.

According to the Provisions on the Administration of Religious Activities of Aliens Within the Territory of the People's Republic of China, foreigners are allowed to bring in religious publications, audio-video materials or other objects for personal use, Liu said.

"We are suspicious of the ultimate motivations of those who spread such rumors. They should be responsible, and not do things that are not beneficial for themselves and undermine mutual understanding between China and the world," he added.

So it sounds like your Bibles or Qurans can be brought into the country.

Actually, I misspoke. It should be your Bible or Quran, in the singular. Re-read the second to last paragraph.

Now imagine if, in the 1960s, people coming to the United States from China were only allowed to bring a personal use copy of Mao's little red book, and weren't allowed to distribute additional copies. I have to admit that some Americans at that time would be in full support of such a move, but they apparently never looked at it from the other perspective. Specifically, if you want to distribute Bibles in China, you can't. At least not legally. Because if you do, you'll be in trouble, according to that reactionary fascist newspaper the New York Times:

A Hong Kong citizen accused of bringing tens of thousands of annotated Bibles into China for use by a banned evangelical Christian group was given a two- year prison sentence today by a court in Fujian Province. It was a far lighter sentence than his supporters had feared.

The man, Li Guangqiang, was initially indicted on very serious charges of "using a cult to subvert the law," which can carry a death sentence. The charge was later reduced to conducting "illegal business," after human rights groups and the United States government repeatedly raised concerns about the initial indictment.

Note the initial charge of "using a cult to subvert the law." And he may not have served the two years, although he was placed under surveillance.

Meanwhile, the Catholic News Agency has kinda sorted retracted its initial story.

An email from the US Olympic Committee states:

“We have received confirmation from both the International Olympic Committee and the Beijing Organizing Committee that Bible and other religious materials will be permitted in the Athletes Village for personal use.”

“The news reports that the Beijing Organizing Committee was considering a prohibition were completely incorrect and stemmed from a miscommunication between a journalist from Italy and a representative of the organizing committee.”...

The email was obtained by CNA from Mike Falkenstine, president and founder of the China Resource Center.

The AP has reported that USOC spokesman, Darryl Seibel said that the Beijing Organizing Committee never considered any ban on Bibles....

CNA initially reported that Bibles would not be allowed into the Olympic Village. A later report revealed contradictory policies that still remain in place.

So it sounds like there WAS an Italian report on this (presumably filed by the unnamed Italian journalist), even though I wasn't able to find it.

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