It is getting more and more difficult for missionaries to stay in China. Many expats are fleeing China after experiencing extreme travel hardships in 2020, changing of visa laws, and exodus of many manufacturing jobs. Beijing’s announcement that it will end tax breaks for foreigners in 2022 has not done any favors.
More than one third of multinational firms in Shanghai are considering joining the exodus as well.
Traditionally, Hong Kong has been a safe haven for foreign companies, but that is no longer the case. Not even Hong Kong is able to hang on to foreigners wanting to stay connected to China. In a recent survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce, a staggering number of the 325 AmCham members who responded to a poll said that they are “definitely planning to leave [Hong Kong] or thinking about it.” Three percent said they are getting out immediately, 10 percent said they would leave by the end of the summer, and 15 percent said they would be out by the end of the year. 48 percent said they would likely leave in the next 3-5 years. That means that 76% have plans to exit Hong Kong.
Laws are changing so rapidly that many experts are admitting in private conversations that we will not recognize China in the next five years. The rise of Christianity in China is a massive problem in the eyes of the government and foreign missionaries continue to pose a threat, as attempts are made to dismantle the leadership of the underground church.
Two nations are beginning to look pretty good to foreign missionary organizations focused on China – Thailand and Singapore.
According to Simon Lee of Chinese University of Hong Kong business school, “Singapore is pretty similar to Hong Kong, but the legal system and relative lack of corruption are pretty clearly there.”
Thailand is not as draconian for foreigners as China and, in some cases, is cheaper. The northern city of Chiang Mai is the unofficial capital of foreign missions for Asia. Several organizations focused on China have chosen Chiang Mai as their base. It is cheap, relatively open, and has direct access to western China.
Missionaries never look for the easiest nations to live in, so many of them will no doubt continue to live in China, but when expats flee it creates a silhouette effect for the missionaries who remain. In absence of secular foreign residents, the clandestine work of missionaries is much easier to identify and persecute.
In essence, not only is China getting harder for Christians in the underground house church, but it also growing more difficult for the foreign missionary by the day.