by Sharon E. Mumper
Reports from around the world.
Hong Kong: Counting down to 1997
Free enterprise could have been born in Hong Kong. Nearly 6 million people live in the British crown colony, and at times-especially in the evenings-it seems nearly everyone is out on the street either buying or selling. Making money is the only game in town, and for a century Hong Kong has been very, very good at it.
But this year the successful little city is being thrust with considerable footdragging into its last decade as a British colony. Under the terms of a Sino-British accord signed in 1984, the plump capitalist plum will drop into Peking’s hands in 1997. What will happen next is anybody’s guess.
China has promised to allow the region to maintain its present freedoms and economic system basically unchanged for at least 50 years. "One country; two systems," has been China’s slogan. Many Hong Kongers—especially businesspeople—have little confidence in Peking’s promises.
"How can a communist government successfully manage a capitalist society?" they ask. For evidence they point woefully to Shanghai’s riches to rags experience under communism.
Peking’s heavy-handed handling in the last two years of some issues dear to Hong Kong hearts has discouraged those who hope for some autonomy for the region. It is apparent to many Hong Kongers that Peking’s hearing aid is turned dismally low.
Nevertheless, it is obvious China wants very much to succeed in Hong Kong. Peking has invested billions of dollars in the colony. In 1985, two-way trade was $15 billion, three times the amount in 1980. About 20 percent of Hong Kong bank deposits are in institutions controlled by China, according to the U.S. News and World Report (Dec. 8, 1986).
This encourages some and worries others.
More encouraging is the news of continued change in China. Reformists led by Deng Xiaoping are trying to craft a uniquely Chinese socialism, a vehicle that today is carrying the country down what is beginning to look suspiciously like the once-denounced capitalist road.
Entrepreneurs and making money are "in." Old-fashioned leftists are "out," but not, some fear, completely down and out. While few believe the excesses of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution could be repeated, most China watchers think the political pendulum could swing left again. Critical to the continued success of reform is the good health of its architect, Deng, who is 82.
In 1997, Deng-if he is still alive-will be 93. Hong Kongers are watching closely as China’s top chieftain attempts to replace older, entrenched leaders with younger reformists who share his views.
Those views are nothing short of revolutionary. While the economy has been the focus of reform during the last decade since Mao Tse-tung’s death, the last year has revealed that not even the political system is sacrosanct.
The official People’s Daily of China this fall announced, "The democratization of political systems is an irreversible historical trend." A few days later, the China Daily stated that the present commodity economy "demands the decentralization of political and economic structures."
Change is in the air in China. But the winds of policy and politics have always been unpredictable in the most populous nation on earth, and Hong Kong’s citizens are not counting their chickens before they have hatched. They have seen too many promises die in the shell.
They note the local Communist Party in Hong Kong has recruited some 4,000 members, while Chinese disapproval dampens the efforts of some to organize other political parties.
The business community’s concern for the future is shared by the colony’s religious communities. Few relish the idea of being governed by an avowedly atheistic party. Over the last 40 years, China’s official attitude toward religion has ranged from violent opposition to teeth-gritting tolerance.
The down side, for evangelical Christians, is the beginning of a leadership leak that some fear could turn into torrent as the decade draws to a close. But seminaries are turning out graduates at a faster rate than ever before. Pessimists question the motives of the students, pointing out that graduates can easily find positions with Chinese churches in other countries. Time alone will tell whether these trained young people will devote their lives to the churches of Hong Kong-and ultimately, perhaps China.
It is the possibility of ministering to China’s church that has other Hong Kong Christians looking forward to 1997. While Peking brings its influence heavily to bear on the city, many Hong Kongers expect the city to influence China. Christians hope to be able to provide the solid teaching that is lacking in many of China’s churches. In turn, Chinese churches could share a life and vitality that is seldom seen in Hong Kong’s churches.
Although many missions have been active in Hong Kong for decades—and in some cases over a century—the church has grown only very slowly. The prospect of coming under communist control, however, has galvanized the church. In the last three years, churches have cooperated as never before to hold mass prayer rallies, symposiums, and evangelistic outreaches. They have formed an organization to work for church renewal. Whether the next decade brings persecution or prosperity, they have come to see they must place themselves and their city in the hands of God.
World health: In need of Intensive care
America’s baby boomers are now officially "over the hill." At age 40, they have become the butt of jokes and good-natured (most of the time) teasing. For most, however, life is only half over. Another 36 years await those who measure up to America’s 76-year life expectancy.
Forty means something else in Africa. In Burkina Faso, it’s only five more years to go in a country where life expectancy is barely above 45 years. Although most countries don’t systematically collect the kind of information needed to pinpoint mortality rates with accuracy, world health experts estimate life expectancy in most African countries is less than 55 years.
"In Thailand, life expectancy approaches 60 years," said Henry Mosley, director of the Institute for International Programs at Johns Hopkins University. "In China, life expectancy is 68 or 69 years."
In most African countries, 15 to 25 percent of children will die in the first five years of life. "In some places, only 50 percent reach the age of five," said Mosley. He estimates that 15 to 17 million of the world’s children under the age of five die each year from preventable diseases.
These appalling statistics have spurred international health agencies to focus on the immunization of the world’s children. "There is a global commitment to immunize 85 percent of children by 1990," he said.
It is a start, but only just a start. What is needed, Mosley said, is a commitment to bring primary health care to entire populations. The goal should be to deliver basic health services to entire populations, and to teach people how to prevent and cure common illnesses.
The concept of primary health care was formulated in 1978 as a result of dissatisfaction with existing health systems that tend to emphasize costly curative care. Health practitioners in developing countries often find they are treating the same people repeatedly for preventable illnesses. Worse, most people in the developing world live beyond the reach of any kind of formal medical care.
The shaky world economy in recent years has aggravated the situation for many developing countries. "The key issue in international health is how governments and health programs can deliver health services effectively to people in the face of declining resources.
"Most developing countries have inherited colonial medical systems centered around sophisticated and expensive medical institutions," Mosley said. Because of limited resources, all governments must ration health care. "One way is to ration the number of people who receive health care. This is what happens in most developing nations. They decide to have some fine hospitals, and perhaps some centers and subcenters, even though they will serve only 10 to 20 percent of the population.
"The other method of rationing is to limit the number of medical problems to be handled. With the same funds, everyone will get a basic level of care. All will be immunized, have access to selected basic drugs, and be taught basic health principles, like oral rehydration therapy."
Mission agencies that offer health services face the same dilemmas as governments. "Many missions operate expensive hospitals," Mosley said. "Because they must be financially viable, many mission hospitals have had to take an increasing number of paying patients. They have a little money available for charity patients, but many essentially have become private hospitals."
Mosley said he does not suggest all mission agencies close their hospitals. "You need some backup for illnesses that can’t be managed at a local level," he said. "But missions must consider whether they should continue to operate sophisticated hospitals-especially in areas where government facilities exist."
International health agencies say only 20 percent of people in developing countries have access to formal medical services. Mosley suggests that Christian missions take the lead in providing basic health services to broad populations.
"The witness of the love of Christ is his compassion for the most disadvantaged in society-the rejects; those who are weakest," he said, "This has been the way missions have led the way through the years. Here is another area where Christians can take the initiative to demonstrate compassion and caring."
Alive and well in Eastern Europe
They are 100 years old-and as alive as ever. What are they? The evangelical church organizations in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and Hungary. Actually, the churches are older than that. But in 1986, the evangelical alliances of East Germany and Hungary celebrated their 100th anniversaries.
A century ago, they were among the first evangelical alliances in the world. Today, they continue in active fellowship with the world Christian community through the World Evangelical Fellowship.
East Germany’s celebration began in June and was attended by government and religious leaders, including guests from 10 Socialist and Western countries. Thousands of people attended Hungary’s January anniversary celebration, held during the organization’s annual week of prayer.
While those doughty soldiers rested on their well-earned laurels last year, a fledgling alliance continued to struggle toward a shaky start in Yugoslavia. The group, which has not yet officially registered with the government, has been meeting informally to consider forming a Council of Evangelical Churches. Yugoslavia’s tiny evangelical minority boasts only 12,000 to 15,000, according to Peter Kuzmic, director of Biblijsko Teoloski Institut, a seminary in Zagreb.
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