Businessmen to build China's first Bible theme park

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The Independent Online

A Hong Kong businessman said Monday he was planning to build China's first Bible-themed amusement park, with construction to start next year if he gets approval from authorities in the communist state.

Leung Moon-lam, founder of logistics firm China South City, said he and some fellow businessmen were working on the final blueprints for the 659 million US dollar tourism project in China's northeastern Liaoning province.

Leung, a devout Christian, said the Harmony World park would feature high-tech attractions to tell the stories of Chinese and Western civilisation.

Some of the items would be based on Bible stories, including Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and Noah's Ark.

"It would not make sense to talk about Western civilisation without mentioning the Bible," he told AFP.

"I believe we are the first as I have not seen any theme park in China which presents the history of Christianity. It just goes to show how much more open China is today," he said, adding that other religions, such as Buddhism and Taoism, would also be showcased.

But Leung admitted having to tread carefully as authorities had made clear that while the development was allowed, promotion of the Christian faith was strictly banned.

"It is a very complicated and long-term project, and with many obstacles on the way. Construction work will begin next year. But if God does not like it and wants to stop us, we cannot go ahead," he said.

Mainland and overseas experts have been hired to work on the interpretation of different parts of world history, he said.

Under the preliminary plan, the 2.3-square-kilometre (nearly one-square-mile) site would also include a chapel for wedding ceremonies, a hotel, shopping facilities and entertainment.

Leung said he hoped the park would eventually take on Disney as a place for fun and adventure for adults and children. But he refused to divulge how much funds they had raised for the project.

Leung, who risked his life swimming to Hong Kong from mainland China in the 1970s, said he was encouraged by his wife to turn to Christianity at a low point in his career in 1996.

He set up China South City in 2002 to provide integrated logistics services and a trading platform for manufacturers, distributors and suppliers.

In China, religious practices are often tightly controlled by the authorities and people are only permitted to attend meetings at "officially sanctioned" Christian groups. Many Christians however attend underground church meetings.