A few days ago, I happened to see an online article that discussed a series of disappearances connected to a small independent bookstore in Hong Kong that dealt in books of a sensitive political nature that are banned on the mainland. Perhaps the five men, three of whom were shareholders in Causeway Bay Books, and two of them who were citizens of European countries (Great Britain and Sweden), thought that they would be safe because of China’s promises to continue allowing political and personal freedoms in Hong Kong and in agreeing to a one nation, two systems policy, and perhaps they thought that they would be safe if they avoided the mainland and stayed in Hong Kong, and perhaps those who were European nationals thought that their nationality would save them from China’s injustice system, but whatever they thought, they were wrong, as one by one they were lured into danger and swept up illegally, caught in the dragnet of the security systems of one of the most insecure nations in our contemporary world. One of these people even managed to disappear while they were in Thailand, making it appear as if China’s rendition efforts have no respect for international or internal boundaries or any kind of respect for the rule of law .
Understandably, the crackdown on these independent booksellers has caused a great deal of panic within Hong Kong and in surrounding areas. Other independent booksellers have begun to pull politically sensitive titles that ruffle Chinese feathers, which was likely the intent of the kidnapping efforts, to quell freedom of speech in Hong Kong and the reading of material that the Chinese government finds offensive. One of the kidnapped people called home and said, with some prompting from his jailers on his side of the line, that he was in the mainland on urgent business and would not be back home for some time. Indeed, his stay on the mainland will likely be of some duration, as Chinese “law enforcement” has not seen it fit to obey with its own rules concerning notifying Hong Kong authorities of the seizures, nor respecting the privileges of foreign citizens who reside in Hong Kong. It appears likely as well that Thailand worked in collusion with Chinese officials to kidnap a Swedish citizen who was traveling abroad, and the lack of safety of foreign travelers in Thailand who offend Chinese sensibilities is likely to increase concerns among outspoken travelers and their home countries.
What would make one of the most powerful nations of the world kidnap people who are part of a small independent bookstore, including one of them who is vacationing in a foreign country? Is China so vulnerable and threatened that its well-being and safety are jeopardized by five mostly middle aged or elderly booksellers who sell niche books to a market of locals and tourists? It seems astounding that China’s security and safey are threatened by these men, but clearly their corrupt security apparatus (and the similarly corrupt security apparatus of nations like Thailand) are likely to be a far greater threat to the safety and well-being of the nonviolent businessmen whom they have kidnapped and unlawfully imprisoned. Those authorities who feel themselves under attack are seldom of the sort of attitude to respect the rights and freedoms of those whom they feel threatened by, and clearly China is not a nation where it is safe to be honest and critical. Even the legal protections of freedoms in places like Hong Kong and other nations in East and Southeast Asia are unlikely to be entirely safe if those governments have friendly relationships with China’s leadership.
There are some people, unfortunately, who are familiar with the difficulties of finding that being obscure is no safety when a government finds one’s speech to be provocative . Nor are China and Thailand the only nations where this is a potential threat, as easy as they are to pick on for their misdeeds. Any nation that is ruled or motivated by a spirit that desires to protect itself from godly rebuke and that views criticism of its cultural or moral worldview as being offensive, hate speech, or lese majeste, is a nation where it is not safe to be godly, especially where one is noisy. Such a government may, at least for a long while, accept the cowed and silent sullen hostility of a browbeaten and cowed populace. They are likely not to dig too closely into the hearts and minds of those who kowtow to them in public but who may feel differently in private, at least unless it suits their purposes to demonstrate their power by cracking down on such people from time to time to show that no one is safe. It is only when a government is ruled by people who accept godly rebuke, though, that it is entirely safe for people to be good. Otherwise, nobility and moral integrity are a threat to the safety and well-being of those who live in such nations.
Let us not be mistaken that this is a new phenomenon. Joseph was imprisoned in wicked Egypt for a crime that he steadfastly refused to commit. Daniel and his friends were nearly killed due to the whims of a corrupt monarch who had a nightmare, and those friends were thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to that same tyrant’s golden idol, while Daniel himself was later thrown into a lion’s den for praying to the Eternal three times a day. To be sure, these men were spared from death by miraculous action on the part of God, but not everyone was spared who ran afoul of such corrupt monarchs. According to Jewish tradition, Isaiah was sawed in half by the wicked Manasseh. Our Lord and Savior was crucified by a gutless and cowardly Roman governor at the behest of corrupt temple elites, righteous Stephen was stoned by an extralegal lynch mob after exposing them for their own stubbornness against obeying God, and Paul, who had preached obedience to the corrupt and wicked Nero in Romans 13, later was beheaded by that same cruel emperor shortly before he met his well-earned end. Wherever the wicked rule, we can be sure that the righteous will be made a target on account of their belonging to another realm, the Kingdom of God, with their ultimate loyalties to that higher authority, and in the way their lives will be an implicit rebuke of their corrupt and ungodly surroundings. As much as we may hope that God will protect us from the unwanted scrutiny goodness invites, we too face the threat that speaking what is just and right will earn us a stay of some duration where we would rather not be.
 See, for example:
Ilaria Maria Sala (7 January 2016). “Hong Kong bookshops pull politically sensitive titles after publishers vanish”. The Guardian.
Nash Jenkins (8 January 2016). “E.U. Calls For Probe into Missing Hong Kong Booksellers”. Time.
Sweden’s foreign ministry takes ‘serious view’ over disappearance of publisher and naturalised citizen while in Thailand”. South China Morning Post. 5 January 2016.
 See, for example: