China’s intelligence is reportedly compiling a list of potential troublemakers at next year’s Olympics Games in Beijing that includes human rights activists, non-governmental organizations, and evangelical Christians.
Government spy agencies and think tanks say that Christians threaten to mount demonstrations against China’s religious freedom violations, while activists could stage protests demanding Beijing to use its oil-buying leverage with Sudan to end the Darfur genocide, according to The Associated Press.
Environmentalists are also considered a potential threat if they decide to publicly voice their anger about global warming.
“Demonstrations of all kinds are a concern, including anti-American demonstrations,” said a consultant who works for Beijing’s Olympic organizers, requesting to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
China’s government is “trying to find out what kinds of NGOs will come…What are their plans?” said the consultant, according to AP.
With the Olympic price tag at $40 billion and China’s public image on the line, the Chinese government is leaving no room for foreign protestors to spoil China’s moment in the spotlight.
The effort is one of the broadest intelligence-collection drives by Beijing against foreign activist groups.
Even with more than a year before the Games, protests have already been mounted in the United States against the Beijing Olympics.
Several demonstrations were held in Washington, D.C., by Christians and human rights activists to urge the U.S. government to press China on its treatment of North Korean refugees using the Olympics as leverage.
U.S. human rights activists have urged people not to travel to Beijing to attend the 2008 Olympics unless China grants the United Nation’s refugee agency, UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), access to North Koreans hiding in its territory.
It is said that at least 500,000 North Koreans have crossed the border over to China in the past 10 years to escape from starvation and persecution they face under the repressive regime in North Korea. However, China has signed an agreement with its communist ally to return refugees back to North Korea where they face imprisonment, torture, and sometimes execution for leaving the country – a state crime.
China, in defense of its actions, has claimed North Koreans entering its country are “economic migrants” and not refugees and thus it has the right to return them.
“We have to hold China’s face to the light and feet to the fire,” said Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, at a rally in April. “If the world doesn’t stand up and hold China accountable in its policy on repatriation, then it is responsible for the death of thousands every year."
Open Doors, a ministry working with persecuted churches, last week announced its initiative to “blanket China in prayer” – a one year campaign to pray for a spiritual change in China from Aug. 8, 2007 to Aug. 8, 2008, the first day of the Beijing Olympics.
“The Beijing Olympics presents an awesome opportunity for believers in the West to unite in prayer … not only for our fellow Christians but for the communist government of China to grant religious freedom to all worshippers, especially house church members,” said Moeller.
“And an opportunity to pray for those dedicated Christians who are being persecuted,” he added.
Meanwhile, other Christian mission groups around the world have said they plan to evangelize at the Beijing Games despite China’s ban on foreign missionaries.
Due to security concerns, some Christian organizers cannot reveal details of their plans, but some have said they plan to put on cultural and sports events – which China allows – and use them to share about their faith, according to AP.
The Southern Baptists, for example, will bring thousands of volunteers for humanitarian work, sports clinics, first aid sites and other projects.
Furthermore, Youth With A Mission (YWAM) – an international Christian ministry well-known for its Olympic outreaches – is planning a “2008 Olympics Discipleship Training School” in Brazil next year, after which it will send volunteers to the games.
"With a draw like the Olympics, we just pray our 'forces' will be so large that we will be able to form many relationships," said Mark Taylor of Awaken Generation, a ministry for college-age Christians. The Fla.-based group plans to send evangelism teams of eight to 12 people around China during the competition.
Critics of Beijing’s intelligence efforts have warned that its activities could be more harmful than helpful to its public image, according to AP. The communist government could draw negative media reports if it is found guilty of withholding visas or using harsh tactics to suppress protests – a risk China is aware of given the recent growing protest coverage against China’s human rights and religious freedom violations.