The Salvation Army's work in mainland China has been given a boost with news that the regional offices in China have received official government recognition and registration.
The offices in the capital cities of Kunming (Yunnan Province) and Chengdu (Sichuan Province) have received official recognition and been given legal approval to conduct activities which include: disaster relief, disaster recovery, community development, social services, educational programmes and – at the invitation of Provincial Christian Councils – permission to partner with local congregations in religious activities.
This achievement is the direct result of 30 years of patient, transparent and consistent relationship with government departments and Christian councils as well as partnerships with a multitude of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Lieut-Colonel Ian Swan (Officer Commanding, Hong Kong and Macau Command) says: 'Over the years there have been many hands and hearts joined in this process; however, we would acknowledge with gratitude the following individuals in particular: Lieut-Colonel Alfred Tsang, Envoy Simon Wong, Major Tommy Chan, Major On Quang-dieu, Major Jeremy Lam and Dr Chan Pui-si.'
The Salvation Army's ministry opened in mainland China in 1916 and quickly expanded across the northern and eastern provinces until 1949, when it withdrew the mainland. Ministry and social services were retained in Hong Kong. In 1985, at the invitation of the Yunnan Provincial Government, The Salvation Army provided disaster relief and recovery in mainland China.
This opened the door to further collaborations and partnerships which resulted in a wide geographical distribution of service and a greater recognition of the organisation's presence. These programmes included health education, HIV/Aids awareness, education sponsorship, income-generation projects to alleviate poverty, infrastructure and capital projects, consultation and training.
In 2015, the Central Government of China reviewed its registration expectations and procedures which resulted in the establishment of a new law in January 2017. Significant meetings in 2016 with the government and Christian councils during the visit of General André Cox and Commissioner Silvia Cox explored ways in which The Salvation Army could comply with these new regulations while expanding its partnerships and scope of work to better serve all the people of China. These discussions were very productive and opened new approaches which have now borne fruit.
'God has richly blessed our efforts and desire to serve the mainland and its peoples,' says Lieut-Colonel Swan. 'We now have further opportunities and responsibilities to build on these foundations so the next 30 years will produce results for future generations.'
From a report by the Hong Kong and Macau Command