Bibles at the 2008 Olympics? No problem, Chinese officials say

CHINA OUT/Getty Images Are Chinese authorities planning to ban the Bible at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing? According to the Catholic News Agency, they are. The report comes via an Italian newspaper, which referred to a Chinese government prohibition of  “promotion material used for religious or political activity” at the Games. When asked about the ...

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598249_071108_china_05.jpg

CHINA OUT/Getty Images

Are Chinese authorities planning to ban the Bible at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing? According to the Catholic News Agency, they are. The report comes via an Italian newspaper, which referred to a Chinese government prohibition of  "promotion material used for religious or political activity" at the Games.

When asked about the matter, however, China's head of security couldn't give a definitive answer as to whether that restriction would apply to the Bible. (Primarily Christian) news outlets ran with the story and eventually caused the Chinese Foreign Ministry to release a statement. The ministry vehemently denied that foreign visitors would be prohibited from bringing Bibles for their own personal use into the country.

CHINA OUT/Getty Images

Are Chinese authorities planning to ban the Bible at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing? According to the Catholic News Agency, they are. The report comes via an Italian newspaper, which referred to a Chinese government prohibition of  “promotion material used for religious or political activity” at the Games.

When asked about the matter, however, China’s head of security couldn’t give a definitive answer as to whether that restriction would apply to the Bible. (Primarily Christian) news outlets ran with the story and eventually caused the Chinese Foreign Ministry to release a statement. The ministry vehemently denied that foreign visitors would be prohibited from bringing Bibles for their own personal use into the country.

China does restrict religious expression, but standard Christian Bibles themselves are available in China, according to an investigation by the Canadian government. However, the U.S. State Department indicates that religious materials may be subject to confiscation by Chinese authorities and recommends that travelers contact the U.S. Embassy or a Chinese consulate to determine what specific items may be restricted.

While in this case the issue was overblown, the Bible controversy highlights the larger problem that China will face during the Olympics. Beijing wants to put on a friendly face to the world and will have to tread lightly when dealing with foreign visitors who want to make political statements during the Games. This is the exact problem addressed by FP Editor in Chief Moisés Naím in our last issue. Pass the popcorn—this is going to be one heck of a show.

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