Pastor Wang Yi probably won’t watch any of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, as they’re unlikely to be shown in the Chinese prison where he’s serving a nine-year sentence. His “crime” was leading an unregistered church in China — giving his Christian faith higher priority than the edicts of the Chinese Communist Party.
Pastor Wang is currently incarcerated at Jintang Prison in Chengdu, Sichuan province. According to a report smuggled out of the prison last year, he is fed only moldy rice and is subject to “closed” imprisonment: He is allowed contact with only two other inmates, criminal offenders assigned to watch his every move. Pastor Wang eats and sleeps in the same cell with these two men.
You might say the three prisoners are “Together for a Shared Future,” the motto of the XXIV Olympic Winter Games that began Friday. But I’m sure no cameras will venture into Jintang Prison to interview Pastor Wang, and it’s doubtful they’ll get access to the Xinjiang concentration camps where more than 1 million (yes, 1 million!) Uyghurs — predominantly Muslims but also some Christians — are “together for a shared future” of detention, abuse, beatings and rapes.
Our TV screens are currently filled with pageantry, stirring music and beautiful high-definition footage of the Great Wall of China. We see tearful and truly inspiring featurettes about the incredible obstacles some athletes overcame to reach Beijing. We hear lip service paid to the core values of the Games: excellence, friendship and respect.
But concealing oppression, persecution and torture behind five rings, stunning imagery and idealistic verbiage won’t lessen the suffering of the Uyghurs, Christians and Tibetan Buddhists who are subjected to it on a daily basis.
When I visited China just a few months before the 2008 Summer Games, Beijing was in the midst of a five-star beauty treatment. Workers were busily planting flowers in street medians, roundabouts and anyplace else flowers might grow. The government had ordered all factories in the region to shut down weeks prior to the Games so Beijing’s famous choking smog could clear.
One of the Chinese Christians I interviewed on that trip, a man we called “Pastor Bike” because of his notoriety for riding all over China to tell people about Jesus Christ, was arrested by police two days before the Games began. He was detained until after the Olympics ended and the international media had left the country. Communist officials made sure Pastor Bike wouldn’t become a story during their 16-day, five-ring propaganda circus.
As the Winter Games approached, the CCP didn’t have to arrest Pastor Wang — he was already in prison. And they didn’t have to detain his wife, Jiang Rong, to prevent her from telling her husband’s story — she was already under virtual house arrest, constantly monitored and allowed limited contact even with her own family.
But Pastor Wang and his wife are truly “together for a shared future.” When they committed their lives to Christ rather than to the CCP’s ideals and dictates, they knew they would face a life of suffering in China. The precedent had been set by those who persecuted Christ’s followers 2,000 years earlier, and it has not changed throughout the centuries.
The pastor and his wife, along with millions of other Christians in China, persevere in the hope of a promised future in which they will endure no more tears or suffering.
The public relations spin of peace and unity began with the lighting of the Olympic torch on Friday, an impressive show. But no matter how bright the flame, we should not let it blind us to the blood on the hands of China’s communist leaders.
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