From Tiananmen to Hong Kong

It was a highlight of my career as a news reporter, interviewing Shengde Lian, one of the organizers of the Tiananmen Square protests. Now it seems that piece of history from 1989 is repeating itself in Hong Kong today.

Inspired by student protests in America and South Korea they had seen on television, Chinese college students gathered in Beijing at Tiananmen Square to mourn Hu [Yaobang], their advocate for democratic reform. The marathon sit-in lasted seven weeks.

[In Tiananmen Square, protesters crafted a goddess of liberty akin to our statue in New York’s Harbor. ]

Demonstrations weren’t unheard of in China, but the international broadcast of such demonstrations was. The international press was in town to cover [Mikhail] Gorbachev’s visit to Beijing. Because of his attempts to reform communism, the protesting Chinese students considered him a champion of democracy.[i]

The presence of the international press made possible our knowledge of the Tiananmen Square massacre. [There were other crackdowns at the same time across the country.] In front of the international media, the Chinese government, having lost face in the weeks’ long standoff, sent the army into the square, killing thousands and capturing surviving protesters. [Lian served 18 months in a laogai–the Chinese equivalent of a Soviet gulag.]

. . . The Chinese students . . . did not get the change they had hoped for, but change is what China would see. The Beijing massacre and imprisonment of surviving demonstrators prompted Chinese youth, especially students, to look for a new form of freedom. Many found that freedom in Christ.

Why did young Chinese college students suddenly develop a passionate interest in the Christian faith? David Aikman writes that one “suggestion was that China’s traditional Confucian view of man as inherently good was shattered under the tanks that rolled onto the center of Beijing.”[ii]

The Chinese students had put their faith in their government, and their government turned on them and attacked them. Now they would look elsewhere for someone to trust. Within the next ten to fifteen years, China is on track to become the most Christian nation in the world.[iii]

Hong Kong is very different from Beijing. Crosses hang on the exteriors of hospitals to signify their connection to churches. When the British left Hong Kong to the Chinese in 1997, they left behind the stamp of a Christianized culture. They left behind an understanding of basic freedom.

After the 1997 takeover, China discovered in Hong Kong what free enterprise could do. The “communist” government adopted capitalistic practices–with the military owning some companies.

The Mainland economy grew in leaps and bounds. China was building a middle class (without a minimum wage and with a flat tax, by the way, a graduated income tax having been foundational to Marxism.)

In 1997, the communist government in Beijing promised Hong Kong citizens “one country, two systems.”

Kayla Wong and Emily Lo provide an account of a Chinese woman waving the British Union Jack. This woman is not calling for a return to British colonialism but to the practices that helped Hong Kong prosper under the British.

She says Hong Kong has a 20-year history of government’s unkept promises.

Protesters also dare to wave the US flag. And while we are divided over gun control, they are asking for a Second Amendment.

Will Christianity see a resurgence in Hong Kong as is happening in the mainland? That remains to be seen.

China has not sent troops and tanks into Hong Kong–yet–although the military is amassing on the border and engaging in exercises designed to intimidate. All the while, the Hong Kong police show no mercy to the protesters.

Oppression suppresses free speech. An already eroded promise threatens the freedom that remains.

Perhaps China and Hong Kong are at a crossroads. Perhaps the events that unfold in Hong Kong in the coming days will determine whether there is freedom or continued oppression.

Only one King is faithful to His word. Pray for Hong Kongers and Chinese to find that King. Pray for peace and freedom found only in Him.


This post is partially excerpted from Restoring the Shattered.

[i]Nicholas D. Kristof and Special to the New York Times, “China’s Hero of Democracy: Gorbachev,” archives 1989, accessed May 14, 2018,

[ii] David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2003), 171.

[iii] Tom Phillips, “China on Course to Become ‘World’s Most Christian Nation’ within 15 Years,” London Telegraph, April 19, 2014,

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Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

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Population Control Worked–Or Did It?

Japan figured it out a few years ago. Low birth rates lead to a smaller population that grows older without replacement workers.

In that nation, 86 percent of employers struggle to fill jobs. The situation forebodes what one reporter calls a “demographic timebomb.” The government has been offering birth incentives for years, including a lump sum payment upon birth, tuition breaks, and yearly cash payments–with little positive result.

France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and other countries also offer incentives in hopes of increasing their birthrates–also without much to show for the effort.

And now China joins the chorus, promising to end what was once a one-child, now a two-child policy–“to slow the pace of aging in the country and reconcile its shortage of workers.”

Yet despite the change in policy from one-child to two, China’s birthrate did not increase. Instead, it fell. And the disproportionate number of males to females (120 to 100 throughout the country, but 143 to 100 in some rural areas) means fewer men are able to marry further reducing the birthrate.

Lower birth rates are to be expected in any nation moving from a rural to an urban culture. Couples naturally limit family sizes in a city–without the government forcing them to do so. When people move from the country to the city, their view of children changes.

In rural areas, families need more children to work. In urban areas, children don’t naturally become part of the family’s workforce. In a city setting, children are no longer part of the team pushing toward a goal for the benefit of all.

Often, even in the Christian community, children are something to be avoided and prevented instead of welcomed.

I felt this attitude when I carried my third, fourth, and fifth children. It wasn’t socially acceptable in some circles to have a big family. It still isn’t today.

Japan, China, and European countries are reaping the results of the city-dwellers’ perspective of children. That, combined with four decades of alarmism about over-population brings us to today.

Now parents in developed countries are enjoying the ease of having fewer children. (link) (link) (link) including America where the fertility rate is now below replacement level.

As the world adds one billion people every eleven years, Eastern culture is shifting and Western culture and its Christian influence are dying.

The proverbial toothpaste has come out of the tube.

And in some places in the world, there are not enough people left to put it back in.

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No Empty Nest Here

I was waiting at a restaurant so popular you often have to stand in line to get a table. She waited behind me. The mother of older teens who had adopted one more.
She spoke to me, perhaps not realizing how profound she was being.
“Just because you’re older, doesn’t mean you’re done parenting.”
We’d had three exchange students by then, but all had come when we had one or two kids still at home.
When I was standing at the restaurant, we were empty nesters. But life can change with one spoken sentence. So my life was changed. Continue reading “No Empty Nest Here”

When Choice Isn't Choice

I was volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) years ago when the couple walked in. They were young, but he was older than she was. He was clearly “of age.” She was clearly not.
Our policy was to talk to the woman alone. To tell her whether she was pregnant where she could express herself freely, where she would not be under the influence or power of someone else.
This man refused to let us tell her anything. He just wanted to know. Was she pregnant? When he understood that he would not receive the information himself, he said, “I’ll just take her to Pittsburgh.”
To Pittsburgh, for an abortion.
She had not spoken a word. They left. Continue reading “When Choice Isn't Choice”

Cookies, Tea, China, and the Cross

I was going through the college cafeteria line to buy a chocolate chip cookie and a cup of tea after my morning class. Looking forward to a few quiet moments before I headed to my job, I had a magazine in hand opened to an article about creation. Behind me in line was a professor. As I set the magazine down to retrieve my cookie, a sentence about God having formed the world caught his eye.
No quiet moment now. He asked me about the article, then followed me to my table. He stood as I sat. Continue reading “Cookies, Tea, China, and the Cross”