Soothing Lies

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A little more than a year from now, the world will be focused on Beijing for the Olympic Games. The games will be a very visible sign of China's growing power on the global stage.

The obvious question is: Does China represent a force for good or for ill? Is it the proper place for the Olympics?

A few weeks ago, Liane Yage, a pastor in China's Guangxi province and his wife, Wei Linrong, were expecting their second child. Since enforcement of China's infamous "one-child policy" has reportedly become more lax, they expected to get away with paying a fine—a small price for having a second child.

That's not what happened. On April 16, officials invaded their home and told Wei that she must have an abortion, which, as a Christian, she refused. Officials made it clear that if she did not go voluntarily, they would carry her to the hospital.

When Wei was taken to the hospital, she saw that it was "full of women who'd been brought in forcibly"—some to be sterilized and others for abortions. Wei was given three injections in her abdomen and, within two days, delivered a still-born child.

As Wei's account to National Public Radio (NPR) shows, what happened to her was not an isolated incident. NPR has uncovered "dozens" of such cases in southwest China.

And what do Chinese officials have to say about the stories? An official at China's State Commission for Population and Family Planning said that he knew nothing about the incidents.

But another told NPR that an investigation had already been conducted and that—surprise!—no wrongdoing had been discovered. Instead, they said stories like Wei's were "fabrications" invented by people "who were dissatisfied with our family planning policies." Of course.

While this story is outrageous, it should not come as a surprise—nor should the Chinese government's denials and cover-ups. China's human rights record, especially with regard to Christians, is abysmal.

Almost as abysmal are the excuses offered up by China's apologists here in the United States. They urge us not to confront the Chinese government or do anything that might upset them. Then they promise that China's ongoing economic transformation will eventually be followed by political transformation. I'm waiting.

James Mann of Johns Hopkins calls this the "soothing scenario." In his new book, The China Fantasy, Mann demolishes what he calls the "Starbucks Fallacy." This fallacy says that as the Chinese have choices of coffee, they will demand more political choices, that is, freedom.

Mann argues that "the newly enriched, Starbucks-sipping, apartment-buying, car-driving denizens" of Shanghai and Beijing will not demand democracy—they will oppose it. After all, they will always be in the minority. Why would they hand political power to their impoverished majority?

The Chinese future he envisions is one in which China is richer, more powerful but no less authoritarian. In other words, one in which forced abortions can and will happen.

There is an alternative: Christians can insist that the price of business cannot include acquiescence to evil. We can shout from the housetops about what is going on in places like Guangxi. We can cut through the soothing talk and help our neighbors (and ourselves) wake up and smell the coffee.


From BreakPoint®, May 7, 2007, Copyright 2007, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries