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Pre-Olympic report criticises China

by
31 July 2008

by Ed Beavan

Rowing team arrives at Beijing Airport

Rowing team arrives at Beijing Airport

THE PRIMATE of Hong Kong, the Most Revd Paul Kwong, has rejected criticism of the Chinese government on the eve of the Olympic Games in Beijing, as an Amnesty International report highlights the deterioration of the human-rights situation in the run-up to the event.

The Olympics Countdown: Broken promises, published on Monday, says that China has reneged on its pledge for greater freedom, and that dissidents continue to be imprisoned.

Bishop Kwong, who will be attending the Olympics opening ceremony next week, said it was “very natural for the government to regulate those illegal activities”, and said that China had a different understanding of democracy from the West.

He said that sport and politics should be kept separate, and that the Western media had an agenda in highlighting cases of persecution.

“As I see it, there are people in the world who are not happy with the progress China has made; there are people trying to demonise China and contain China in various ways, which is so unfortunate. People have different interpretations, and there are distortions, with people trying to undermine the Republic of China.”

He said that the government was supportive of the Church in China, and that the President, Hu Jintao, “acknowledged the importance of religion to the harmony and the well-being of the country.

“China is very open, tolerant, and supportive to the work of Churches. In Guangzhou, I visited the Roman Catholic cathedral, which 20 years ago was left derelict, but has been totally transformed, with the government giving around £1.5 million for the restoration. This shows how supportive the government is to Churches, including the Protestant Churches.”

The Primate said it would be a “great privilege and honour” for Hong Kong to host the equestrian events of the Games.

In May, Canon Duncan Green, the Church of England’s Olympic executive co-ordinator for the London 2012 Games visited Beijing to observe their preparations for chaplaincy work at the Olympics. He said last week that it was right that Beijing had been given the Games.

He pointed to the fact that the Bible Society had been allowed to distribute Bibles at the Games, which “wouldn’t have happened without the spotlight on China”. He said that the Games are a “marvellous opportunity” for the Church in China, and that engaging with China was the best way to effect change.

“It’s easy to say they’ve got a poor human-rights record, but we can be hypocritical: what about prisoners at Guantanamo Bay? Will we not allow America to bid for the Games? Through positive and sustained engagement we can effect change.”

www.amnesty.org

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