Agony and ecstasy—12 months of turmoil, disaster, death, rescue, victory, and celebration
While waiting in a long line outside Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam, I overheard a local tour guide explaining to a Chinese Canadian tourist: “Only three Communist leaders have mausoleums open to the public: Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, and Ho Chi Minh.” (Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il also have a mausoleum, although that one’s harder to visit.) The tourist responded, “Wow, I wonder who the fourth one will be.”
As of this week, my guess would be Chinese President Xi Jinping. On Sunday, the National People’s Congress voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that would abolish the presidential term limit, essentially crowning Xi the potential lifelong leader of China. The Chinese government implemented the term limit to prevent another dictator like Mao, yet history now seems to be repeating itself: A total of 2,958 delegates voted for the amendment, with only two voting against it, three abstaining, and one ballot disqualified.
The National People’s Congress voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that would abolish the presidential term limit, essentially crowning Xi the potential lifelong leader of China.
“This could destroy China and the Chinese people,” retired newspaper editor Li Datong told The Guardian. “So I cannot stay silent. I have to let them know that there are people against it, and to do so publicly.”
Back in Hanoi, the line moved steadily past speakers blaring songs honoring the founder of Vietnam’s Communist government. The line stretched across a wide courtyard, and into the cooled mausoleum, where cameras and cell phones were prohibited. We solemnly filed past a glass casket surrounded by four soldiers dressed in white uniforms. (White is the color of mourning in Vietnam.)
Inside the casket, Ho Chi Minh’s body lay on its back, his hands folded on his stomach, his face yellowed under the lighting. Preserved by embalmers in Moscow who had worked on Lenin’s corpse, Ho looked unnatural, a wax figure with only the likeness of a man. It left me feeling deeply unsettled: Man’s body was not meant to last on this earth forever, I thought.
Though we say “Long live the King,” or in Chinese, “Wansui” (meaning “10,000 years”), earthly rulers don’t reign for thousands of years. Their power—for evil or for good—is contained to the lifespan of a man. Even those who seem to have ultimate power today will one day leave this earth. Whether they’re buried in the ground or embalmed beneath glass, they’ll be judged like everyone else before the one true King.
After stepping out of the mausoleum, the crowds walked toward Ho Chi Minh’s yellow Presidential Palace and the plain house on stilts where he lived. Placards described historic moments that occurred in each room, which remained well-preserved as though awaiting its owner’s return. Students on a school trip teased one another, Korean tourists snapped selfies with Ho’s former car, and a Vietnamese tour guide curtly called out for his Chinese tour group to keep up.
I thought about the house churches I had visited both in Vietnam and in China, and how none of them would be preserved or remembered like this place. The bodies of house church preachers and teachers would return to the ground, their names largely unknown, their deeds largely untold. Yet those men and women found immortal life, not by preservatives or legacies left in history books, but by trusting in the Lord and remaining faithful despite persecution and hardship. They will reign with King Jesus forever and ever in the world to come.
The eye roll seen around the world:
During a televised press conference with state assets chief Xiao Yaqing at the National People’s Congress (NPC) Tuesday, reporter Liang Xiangyi dramatically rolled her eyes at a long-winded softball question asked by another reporter. A video of Liang’s eye roll quickly went viral. Hours later, the government revoked her media accreditation to cover the NPC and censored her name from the internet.