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Bookshop owner seized for printing Bibles

ICC Note: Months before the olympics and amid China’s scrambling efforts to construct a facade of religious tolerance, a bookshop owner is arrested for selling and distributing unauthorized copies of the Bible.

By Dinah Gardner

1/3/2007 China (The Scotsman) Police seized Shi Weihan, 37, the owner of Holy Spirit Trading Company, in the early hours from his home in the Chinese capital, Beijing. He is accused of conducting “illegal operations” and remains in custody, more than a month after his arrest.

The police confiscated almost all of the Christian literature and Bibles stored in the home he shares with his wife, Zhang Jing, and seized all the books in his bookshop.

Ms Zhang said that, while the books in their shop were legally printed and sold in China, her husband privately published many Christian books and Bibles without authorisation and distributed them among local home churches: this was the reason for his arrest.

China detains thousands of members of religious groups every year; some 70 members of a Protestant home church in eastern Shandong province are still being held after their arrest in early December for taking part in an “illegal religious gathering,” according to the CAA.

With eight months to go before the Olympics, the government is taking great pains to paint itself to the international community as a country of religious tolerance. It says local Christian groups will be encouraged to hand out Bibles to athletes and spectators during the event.

The CAA says Mr Shi is being held in an unheated cell and is subjected to sleep deprivation. Ms Zhang says she has been denied visitor rights to see her husband and so is “not clear” about his condition.

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