BREAKING NEWS: China Releases Pastor And “Illegal Bible Printer” After Three Years Imprisonment
“The love of the Lord and the prayers by the saints sustained my life in the prison,”
Saturday, 15 September 2007 , CHINA (BosNewsLife)– A prominent house church leaders who was convicted of illegally printing up to 40 million Bibles and other Christian writings was home Saturday, September 15, after three years detention, family members and Christians involved in the case said.
Protestant Pastor Cai Zhuohua of a house church in Beijing was sentenced to three years imprisonment in November 2005 on charges relating to “illegal business practices” and fined 150,000.00 China Yuan Renminbi (CNY), about $19,941.
Authorities apparently calculated the time he already served behind bars since his initial arrest on September 11, 2004 at a bus stop, where “he was dragged into a van by state security officers,” said the US-based China Aid Association (CAA), a Christian rights group representing several house churches in China .
“Authorities were shocked to find more than 200,000 pieces of printed Christian literature including Bibles in a storage room managed by Cai. In China , only the Chinese government sanctioned church is allowed to print and distribute bibles,” CAA said in a statement to BosNewsLife. It was believed he could now meet his wife Xiao Yunfei, who was sentenced to two years and fined 120,000 CNY ($15, 952) and his brother Xiao Gaowen, who received an 18 month sentence and was fined 100,000 CNY ($13,294.04).
40 MILLION BIBLES
A Hong Kong newspaper funded by Beijing, Ta Kung Pao, reportedly quoted Chinas director of the state bureau of religious affairs, Ye Xiaowen, as saying that Cai illegally “printed 40 million Bibles and other Christian writings.” Ye also accused Cai of illegally selling over two million copies of the Bible instead of giving them away for free, charges the pastor has denied.
“The prosecution could not find a witness to testify that my son received any money,” Cais mother, Cai Laiyi, told reporters. “But Im not sad or angry because this is Gods arrangement,” she said at the time of the trial. Cai’s mother said in published remarks that Cai arrived at his home following his release on Monday, September 10.
She said he “looked well with good spirit although he was not allowed to have or read a Bible in the past three years.” In his prison, Cai was forced to make soccer balls up to 12 hours a day for 2008 Beijing Olympics, said CAA, which distributed the mother’s remarks.
However “the love of the Lord and the prayers by the saints sustained my life in the prison,” said Pastor Cai in an apparently brief written statement. He was told by the Public Security Bureau (PSB), “not to speak out,” CAA said.
He was taken to the PSB office again on September 13 and where he received “warnings and intimidations,” the rights group added. “He feels [after PSB talked to him] he won’t have any freedom even after his release,” reportedly said his mother, who is also a dedicated house church leader.
Joy about his release was also dampened by mews that another house church leader in Xinjiang province, Zhou Heng, was arrested last week after he was caught receiving three tons of bibles from South Korean Churches, CAA and other sources said.
In recent years, Chinese authorities have tried house church leaders under Article 225 of China’s Criminal Law, which makes it a crime for anyone to commit “illegal acts in business operation and thus disrupt market order,” analysts say
In 1998, China’s Supreme People’s Court issued the ‘Explanation Regarding Certain Questions About the Specific Laws to be Used in Adjudicating Criminal Cases of Illegal Publications’ guidelines which allow courts to use Article 225 to imprison anyone who “publishes, prints, copies, or distributes illegal publications,” CAA monitored.
“Since the pastor has already served an unjustified three years sentence, to continue to restrict his freedom of movement is a violation of Chinese own law,” said CAA President Bob Fu, a former co-worker of Cai in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife. “We urge the international
community to continue to press the worsening situation on religious freedom and human rights in China .”
Church groups have linked the reported crackdown to fears within China s Communist leadership about the spread of Christianity in the country. Authorities deny the charges, saying Christians are free to worship within the official churches. (With reporting from China and BosNewsLife Research)