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Touching the New China
Two Legionary priests visited Hong Kong and Xi’an to participate in international business ethics and bioethics conferences.

Legionaries in Hong Kong
Legionary Fathers Michael Ryan and Joseph Tham in the city of Hong Kong, China.

December 19, 2009. Hong Kong, China. In late October and early November, Legionary Fathers Joseph Tham and Michael Ryan visited the Chinese cities of Hong Kong and Xi’an. In both cities, they attended and gave conferences on business ethics and bioethics.

On October 29 and 30, the priests flew to Hong Kong to attend an international congress entitled “The Common Good for the 21st Century: Beyond Individualism and Collectivism – A Sino-American Dialogue.” The congress was organized by the Center for Ethics and Culture of the University of Notre Dame, in conjunction with the Center for Applied Ethics of the Baptist University of Hong Kong, gathering experts from the United States, Hong Kong, and other Chinese cities. The talks will be published by the University of Notre Dame Press.

Afterwards, at the Center for Catholic Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Fr Joseph gave a talk entitled “Suffering Technology” and Fr Michael gave another on “Steering Economics: Convergence of Ethics and Rules.”

Fr Joseph’s talk on Suffering Technology touched upon the paradox of how modern technology is a worldly response to human suffering, as seen in many bioethical issues such as stem cells and euthanasia.  But, he went
flyer for suffering technology
The flyer for Fr Joseph Tham's talk on "Suffering Technology," given at Center for Catholic Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
on to argue, this is ultimately an inadequate response because it fails to address the spiritual answers to suffering.

Fr Michael also gave another conference entitled “Christian Contribution to Business Ethics” at the Center of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong. This conference addressed the very current topic of how the economics crisis could be avoided by a strong business ethics based on the social doctrine of the Church, and not by merely increasing the number of regulations and rules to curb abuses.

In addition to various meetings, Fr Tham and Fr Ryan had the honor of greeting Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun, the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, and Bishop John Tong Hon, the current bishop.

From Hong Kong, the two priests journeyed to the mainland city of Xi’an, where from November 1 to 3, they attended an international congress on “Constructing Chinese Bioethics and Deepening Healthcare Reform.”

At this congress, Fr Joseph Tham gave a talk entitled “Family and Healthcare Decision Making: Cultural Shift from the Individual to the Relational Self in the West.”

This event was organized by the Xi’an Medical College, Jiaotong University, and the Center for Applied Ethics of the Baptist University of Hong Kong, with participants from the United
Fr Michael Ryan giving talk in China
Fr Michael Ryan, LC, gives a talk entitled "The Christian Contribution to Business Ethics" at the Center of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong.
States and various cities in China.

Openness and interest

When asked what stood out most from the visit, Fr Joseph Tham highlighted the enterprising spirit of the Chinese, who “seem to thirst for progress,” primarily but not exclusively in the economic sphere.

He observed that the country’s fast-paced economic development has resulted in noticeable changes in the past 20 years. This recent visit to China was his third trip, after having visited 10 cities as a tourist in 1985 and 1992. This time, he saw a higher standard of life and greater material prosperity on many levels. But most of all, there he noticed a sense of urgency to grow and develop into a leading economic power.

“They have a lot of curiosity, thirst, and interest about what is happening in America and Europe. The people have a spirit of wanting to learn more and launch themselves toward a better life. You can see the Chinese spirit of perfectionism at work,” he observed, noting that a participant in his talk at the bioethics conference in Xi’an asked for advice on how to build a “perfect ethics system for China.”

Fr Tham also noted the signs of a greater openness to the Western world and its lifestyle in the television commercials and advertisements, products and clothing in the stores, and even on the street. People were dressed up in costumes on Halloween, and Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s fast food chains are sprinkled around the cities—surprising signs in a country that only decades ago was carefully guarded against the West.

China, says Fr Tham, is swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other, from dialectical materialism to capitalist materialism. This fast-paced transition is not without complexities and ambiguities, especially in the sphere of religious and ethical values.

For the two Legionaries who touched the new China on their recent visit, participating in these ethics conferences was a moment to see possibilities for a future that still remains to be written.



Related links web site
New Gate Tours
Institute for the Psychological Sciences
Magdala Center
Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center
Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College

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