A U.S.-based rights group countered a claim by the Bible Society in China this past week that the smuggling of Bibles into the country is now unnecessary given the mass printing of scriptures by the government-approved printing press.
Religious freedom group China Aid Association commended Bible Society NSW for its commitment to making Bibles available to Chinese Christians, but it highlighted several problems in communist China that still hinder the Bible being available to all Chinese Christians that want one.
The rate of printing and distribution of Bibles in China for 2007 was 6.75 million complete Bibles and 690,000 copies of the New Testament, pointed out China Aid. Given a total estimated Protestant believer population of 39 million to 130 million (from the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the unoffical house churches), the Bible printing rate would need at least another five years until there is enough Bibles printed in China for the number of believers in the country.
Also, the five years time does not account for the continued growth of the church in China and the need to distribute the Bible to the general population.
Another contention ChinaAid has is that the distribution of Amity Press Bibles is limited to government sanctioned Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) bookstores and distribution points.
As a result, believers who want to purchase a Bible can only do so by finding a TSPM church. Christians who live in rural areas have little to no access to a TSPM church or bookstore.
Moreover, many rural Chinese Christians live at poverty-level and cannot afford to buy a Bible.
"Mr. Willis (Bible Society NSW CEO) is to be commended for his commitment to providing Bibles in China. However, he has overstated the Amity Press' ability to supply enough Bibles to meet China's pressing need," contends China Aid president Bob Fu. "His conclusion that Bibles do not need to be carried into China through other means furthers the misinformation propaganda goals of the TSPM and Religious Affairs Bureau."
Last week, Bible Society NSW CEO, Daniel Willis, made a statement declaring that the "smuggling" of Bibles into China both puts Christians at risk and is a "waste of resources" since Amity Press in Nanjing began its new operations to print Bibles.
Willis was speaking at the launch of the Society's appeal for funds to support the Amity Press and its Bible distributions in the country. He noted during his speech that a Bible could be placed in the hands of a believer for just $10 in remote provinces.
"Our goal is to break down the barriers of distance and isolation and make Bibles available to our Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ," he said.
Bible Society, with the consent of the Chinese government, has been printing and distributing Bibles through Amity Press since 1987. During that time, more than 40 million Bibles have been printed and distributed within China.
Amity Press is the only government-approved Bible printing press in China. House church leaders and other Christians caught distributing Bibles without the government's approval have been arrested and jailed.