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China Detains Christian Bookstore Owner Near Olympic Village

ICC Note

“Shi is now in the eighth day of his detention by the Beijing PSB, without being allowed to see his family or a lawyer to represent him…The family is concerned that he may be quite ill. As a diabetic, going without his medicine for several days, Shi may already be facing the danger of diabetic shock.”

Thursday, 06 December 2007 China (BosNewsLife)– Chinese security forces have detained the frail owner of a Christian bookstore near Beijing’s Olympic Village, forcing his wife and two small daughters to go into hiding, representatives said Thursday, December 6.

Weihan Shi, 37, is “being held in an unknown location without formal charges or legal representation after being arrested by the Haidian District Substation of the Beijing [based] Public Security Bureau (PSB),” one of China’s main law enforcement agencies, said advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA), which is in close contact with the family. “Essentially, he is a disappeared person,” CAA told BosNewsLife in a statement.

Shi was arrested last week “in his Christian literature bookstore in a high-class business tower near the Olympics Village ,” CAA explained. Several employees, his brother and his wife, Jin Zhang, were also detained, but have since been released after questioning, the group added.

“Shi is now in the eighth day of his detention by the Beijing PSB, without being allowed to see his family or a lawyer to represent him…The family is concerned that he may be quite ill. As a diabetic, going without his medicine for several days, Shi may already be facing the danger of diabetic shock.”

No Medicines

CAA said that authorities have refused to allow relatives to take Shi’s diabetic medicine to him. “There has been no proof or assurance to the family regarding his medical condition. Deprivation and torture tactics are often used by the PSB in their notorious detention centers to force those being held to reveal information about others.”

The group added that, “In violation of Chinese law, no formal charges or arrest warrant have been issued, although the family has requested it.” Chinese officials were not immediately available for comment, but the government has in the past denied human rights abuses against Christians.

After 20 police officers reportedly “raided” his home and questioned Shi’s wife about Christian literature confiscated in the bookstore, home and office early November 28, she and her two daughters were apparently forced to flee.

American Citizen

Among the daughters is 7-year-old Grace, who is an American citizen as she was born during the family’s visit to the United States in 2000. Grace and her older, 11-year-old sister Lily “are reportedly terrified for their mother and father’s safety after witnessing the raid on their home,” said CAA.

“The mother and two girls have gone into hiding, fearing the possibility that threatened reprisals against Shi’s wife and the two children would be used as an interrogation tactic against him before legal representation can be arranged.”

CAA said that the US Embassy in Beijing has been provided information about the case and is “concerned for the welfare of the young American girl.” American officials have reportedly demanded an explanation from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Religious Persecution

“This is another case of religious persecution in the 2008 Summer Olympics host city Beijing in the name of so-called illegal publication,” said CAA President Bob Fu, a former pastor of both Shi and his wife from 1995-1996 in Beijing. This is not an isolated incident. In 2004, House Church Pastor Cai Zhuohua was sentenced to three imprisonment for printing Bibles. “We urge the international community to pressure the Chinese government to respect the rule of law and release Mr. Shi immediately,” Fu told BosNewsLife.

The latest reported detention comes amid concerns about a perceived crackdown on Christian groups in China ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games. A secret document obtained by CAA and recently published by BosNewsLife shows that the central government has ordered a crackdown and investigations into “the content of sermons, personal history of [house church] evangelists, the sources of their funds, the system of their activities, key members, and the ordinary people who participate.”

In addition authorities detained 40 church leaders last month from the umbrella China Gospel Fellowship house church group in Henan province. Rights watchers have linked the crackdown to reported concerns within the Chinese Communist Party that devoted Christians will use the Olympic Games as an opportunity to spread Christianity in the country.