No doubt, the Chinese communists are looking forward to April 28, when the Olympic torch relay is set for Pyongyang. North Korea should prove to be a hospitable place for their intended global propaganda tour, now gone so horribly awry. Just yesterday in Pakistan, the torch relay was moved indoors to a sports stadium instead of using the main boulevard in front of Parliament. Today in New Delhi, the Indians have cut the relay short to avoid anti-China protests.
Friends of liberty have delighted in the torch’s travails, as China has got its bloodstained fingers burnt. For those interested in looking at how a clunky propaganda machine operates in the Internet age, it is worth checking out the official torch relay Web site. It is in parts quite hilarious, as the Chinese spin the events as a heroic struggle to protect the “sacred” flame.
Note the prominent portrayal of one of the Paris torchbearers, Jin Jing, a Chinese wheelchair athlete: “Carrying the torch along the Seine River, Jin demonstrated great valour when a ‘pro-Tibet independence’ activist, attempting to disrupt and sabotage the torch relay, reached for her wheelchair and lunged toward her. Without concern for her own safety, Jin did her best to protect the flame, her face exhibiting courage and pride in spite of the chaotic situation.”
There is no mention of the Chinese secret police detail on hand in this act of heroism, but the website reports the rapturous welcome the heroine was given upon return to Beijing. It goes on to quote Jin saying that “God closed one door but opened another” in relation to her injury. She seems a brave confessor of the Olympic faith.
All of which is more than a little creepy, as China is one of the few states still busy at the work of making real martyrs, killing and imprisoning its own citizens for their religious beliefs. The torch relay brought to my mind another image of “sacred” objects being held aloft, this one to found on the Web site of the fine religious liberty organization, Aid to the Church in Need.
That’s John Han Dingxiang, Roman Catholic bishop of Yong Nian, under house arrest. Bishop Han spent some 35 years in forced labour, imprisonment and house arrest for his fidelity to Rome. Knowing that faithful Catholics were watching for him, he would come to his caged-in balcony and raise aloft the cross of Jesus Christ. The image on the site was taken from a camera hidden in some nearby bushes. Like the torch relay, the Chinese secret police are no doubt on hand, but there are no staged crowds, amoral corporate sponsors, no craven Olympic officials — just a lone prisoner of conscience trying to do what little he could to bear witness to the faith and strengthen the flock.
When Bishop Han was dying last September, the Chinese regime permitted no one from the Church to be at this bedside. He was cremated soon after death and buried by night. His grave marker made no indication of his religious faith or that he was a bishop.
Such oppression is absolutely routine in China; there are today bishops and priests imprisoned. The Falun Gong are subject to massive repression and summary execution. To have the Chinese speak about heroism in protecting things sacred is thus particularly grotesque, as they have for decades spilled the blood of religious believers.
The Tibetan freedom protesters were wise to use the torch relay as a means of shedding light on China’s ongoing repression in Tibet. Yet what is going on in Tibet is not altogether different from what Chinese citizens have to suffer from their own government. It is now incumbent upon the vast media operation being assembled for the Olympic Games to see that the light of the Olympic torch illuminates not just the games, but the shadows in which religious liberty is stifled throughout China. Next August must be, if the international media is to retain its credibility, the most extensive reporting of Chinese brutality to date.