Several U.S. senators have weighed in on the Chinese Olympics web site's recommendation that entering visitors bring no more than one Bible into the country, Cybercast News Service reports.
Senator Ken Salazar (D-Col.) was asked whether Americans traveling to China should disobey the restrictions. "I think so," said Salazar. "It's a trampling on a freedom that we cherish in this country that's a universal freedom. I don't think that kind of constriction on something that is such an international global celebration is something that ought to be tolerated."
Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said he wasn't aware of the Chinese policy. He declined to comment specifically on the matter, except to say, "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard of. That's really strange."
Advice for visitors to the 2008 Olympic Games on the Beijing Olympics official web site initially read: "Any printed material, film, tapes that are 'detrimental to China's politics, economy, culture and ethics' are also forbidden to bring into China."
This was immediately followed by a caution about Bibles:
"Note: Each traveler is recommended to take no more than one Bible into China."
Wang Hui, executive deputy director of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, explained the policy, telling the South China Morning Post last week: "Athletes and other individuals can bring with them their own Bibles. But no one can bring in multiple copies for public distribution."
Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., said to Cybercast News Service that the prohibition would extend to a movie about the Dalai Lama or a U.S. State Department report on human rights in China, among other things, if they are intended for distribution and not "private use."
Asked how officials would know if visitors bringing the State Department report intended it for distribution or for private use, Wang said, "I think the people at the customs and border-check at the Chinese airports are very much professional. They know how to handle the situation, I think."
"In addition to violation of religious liberties, the Chinese government is guilty of gross hypocrisy," Catholic League President Bill Donohue said in a November press release "On the Web site of the Beijing Olympic Games, there are several comments lauding religious rights."
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), while not advising anyone defy the law on purpose, suggested anyone who can bring a Bible into the country should, "and then leave it there afterwards."
"I would not advise anybody to defy the rule, but I would have every American and everybody in the world bring a Bible in there," Hatch said in an interview. "If they can bring one, let's bring as many as we can. That means hundreds of thousands of Bibles. So it would be good for China to have the Holy Word, but I'd be the last to advise them or insult them or to violate their law."