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China Denies Bible Ban At Olympic Games

ICC Note

Chinese officials state that Christians could carry Bibles but only for personal use.

By Stefan J. Bos

Thursday, 08 November 2007 China (BosNewsLife)– China said Thursday, November 8, that participants in next years’ Olympic Games would be allowed to carry Bibles “for personal use” only and denied reports of a total ban on religious items during the mega-sports event.

Catholic and other news media reports this month that Bibles would be banned at the Olympics touched off an outcry that prompted US Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina , to telephone the Chinese ambassador for an explanation, and American Christian athletes to protest the “deep violation.”

“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 said in remarks published by China ‘s official Xinhua news agency. “The Chinese government has never ever issued such a rule, nor any such statement,” Liu added. ” 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.”

He said China was “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.”

However the “personal use” rule, underscored concerns among Christian groups that distribution of Bibles and other Christian literature would be banned. A blacklist published by the Ministry of Public Security of the Chinese government also makes clear that “People who illegally distribute religious publications and video/audio materials,” will be barred from the Olympic Games,” advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA) told BosNewsLife.

New ‘Blacklist’

Others on the extensive blacklist include “Members of illegal religious organizations both in China and abroad” as well as “Members who have been caught by the Chinese authorities for engaging in illegal religious activities,” and “People who have given illegal sermons,” and apparent reference to the booming house church movement.

Those who “have illegally established both in China and abroad religious organizations, institutions, schools, sermon sites and other religious entities,” are also barred from the Olympic, according to the blacklist distributed by CAA and obtained by BosNewsLife. Adherents of Falun Gong, “other cult organizations” and members of harmful “Qigong organizations” are also among those targeted.

Christian rights activists have told BosNewsLife they also remain concerned about another ongoing crackdown on evangelical Christians and missionaries in the country ahead of the Olympic Games.

In one of the latest incidents, evangelist Liu Huiwen was sentenced to eighteen months in prison at a court hearing on October 23 for writing and distributing Christian tracts among his local community in western China , said Barnabas Fund, a major advocacy group. Local authorities involved in the case were apparently Muslims and Barnabas Fund claimed this “resulted in a charge of insulting Islam and the prison sentence, which is far longer than the sentences normally imposed on Chinese Christians.”

Missionaries Expelled

In addition over 100 foreign missionaries have reportedly been expelled as part of what critics say is an effort to “tighten control on Christian house churches prior to the 2008 Olympics,” US and other officials have said.

Salem Voice Ministries, an evangelical mission organization, said that five American missionaries were killed during the crackdown in recent weeks, but that report has so far not been confirmed.

Chinese officials have denied any wrongdoing, saying Christians are allowed to worship in the official state sanctioned churches.

Christians have linked the reported crackdown to concerns within China ‘s ruling Communist Party, which is atheist, that groups will use the Games to spread Christianity in the country.