HONG KONG- Overshadowed by speculations about the cancellation of the Chinese Christian activists’ academic visit, the leading seminary has first spoken up and released an official statement to explain its decision.
The statement, written in Chinese, was posted up on May 19, on the main page of the China Graduate School of Theology (CGST) website with the title "Reasons for the Cancellation of Yu Jie’s Visit." It mainly stressed that the seminary is not under any political pressure or self-censorship, as what many people may have suspected.
However, CGST claimed in the statement, "The seminary is concerned that if Yu Jie and his friends come to Hong Kong at this time, they will draw a huge attention from the mass media and that may disturb the learning atmosphere. Therefore, the seminary has decided to cancel the visit this time."
According to a previous report by Radio Free Asia, the director of Chinese Culture Research Center of CGST Dr. Yeung Hing-kau claimed that the visit is supposed to be merely an academic exchange activity. Denying that the invitation cancellation was due to any political factor, he said that the school had already made an apology to Yu Jie and compensated all losts of the two guests caused by the cancellation.
On the statement on the website, the seminary once again apologized to Yu Jie if the incident has caused any damage to him and his friends. CGST also cherishes the fellowship in Christ between the seminary and these dear friends from China.
Yu Jie, Li Boguang and Zhang Qianjin are the three scholars invited by CGST to participant in a study program in Hong Kong on June 11-24. Both Yu and Li were involved in the high-profile meeting with US president Bush in the White House on May 11 to discuss about religious freedom in China. The meeting was considered as an unprecedented encounter between Bush and Chinese house church Christians since the Community Party took over China in 1949.
On May 12, CGST sent an email undersigned by the Acting Director of Chinese Culture Research Center of CGST Dr. Kevin Xi Yi Yao, stating that it is now not "an appropriate time" to invite them to come to Hong Kong in the light of "certain international issue that has raised widespread concern."
Both Yu and Li were disappointed about the seminary and demanded an apology and compensation. CGST was also criticized by the media, theologians and politicians for being affected by political pressure and do self-censorship.
The seminary has kept refusing to give a clear reason for the cancellation of the visit and only commented that "the issue is over." The statement issued this time is the first official response to the public. The full text of the statement is translated to English as follows:
"Reasons for the Cancellation of Yu Jie’s Visit"
The China Graduate School of Theology has invited Christian author Mr. Yu Jie to visit in mid June. Meanwhile the arrangement has been cancelled, and the reasons are as follows:
In March, when Mr. Yu Jie visited Hong Kong, he expressed his interest to have a deeper understanding in theology to the director of Chinese Culture Research Center of CGST Dr. Yeung Hing-kau. Dr. Yeung therefore invited him and other three of his friends to come to Hong Kong in June as a visiting scholar for some theological courses.
After Yu and the others have visited US president Bush, CGST is concerned that if Yu Jie and his friends come to Hong Kong at this time, they will draw a huge attention from the mass media and that may disturb the learning atmosphere. Therefore, the seminary has decided to cancel the visit this time.
Since Dr. Yeung was not in Hong Kong at that time, the Acting Director of Chinese Culture Research Center of CGST Dr. Kevin Yao represented him to send an email to Mr. Yu Jie. Mr. Yu Jie then responded in a letter to public, causing a huge debate in both Christian and secular context. The mass media charged CGST for being influenced by political pressure and self-censorship, which have threatened religious freedom and academic freedom. CGST is very disappointed for such groundless comments.
CGST apologizes for any inconvenience caused by the lack of communication with Mr. Yu Jie before the email was sent. The seminary deeply cherishes the fellowship in Christ with the friends in China. We sincerely apologize if the incident has caused any damages to Mr. Yu Jie and his friends. We look forward to the new opportunity to invite Mr. Yu Jie to visit Hong Kong in the near future.
CGST will compensate the cost of Mr. Yu Jie and his friends for applying visa and travel expenses.
[Editor’s Note: Chris Chan reported from Hong Kong for this article.]