An estimated 500,000 to 550,000 foreign tourists will visit Beijing during the Olympic Games, and local officials are taking all measures to accommodate their religious preferences.
Chinese officials announced yesterday that they are establishing temporary sites for religious services during the Olympics, and China's Amity Press has already been printing Bibles in Chinese and English to distribute in hotels during the Games.
Chen Guangyuan, president of the Islam Association of China, told reporters that special meals will be made for Muslim athletes, and 10 imams speaking English or Arabic will be available for Muslim worshippers. Similarly, Chinese Catholic are being trained to speak English and French in order to facilitate the spiritual needs of visiting Catholics.
Although these efforts to welcome visitors of all faiths squash rumors that China would ban Bibles from the Olympic village, they probably won't sufficiently silence the criticism of many human rights activists.
Why, if China is so set on making religious accommodations for the Olympics, are these venues only temporary and only geared towards foreign visitors? How will religious regulations influence China's religious believers once the Games are over?
As China's leading policymakers continue their meetings this week, these two questions will probably not overshadow other topics like rising inflation, increased military buildup, or preventing another snow disaster.
On the other hand, China will need to answer these and many more difficult questions until all of China's people agree with Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution, which states, "citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief."