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China Court Refuses To Release Christian Bookstore Owner

ICC Note

Chinese authorities have refused to release Shi Weihan, a Christian bookstore owner, from prison. The authorities accuse Shi of “illegal distribution of Bibles and Christian literature.”

04/17/2009 China (BosNewsLife)-Chinese Christian Shi Weihan, the owner of a

Christian bookstore and a well-known house church leader, remained detained

Friday, April 17, after a Beijing court refused to immediately rule on his

future, trial observers said.

Shi, who has been detained since last year on charges of “illegal distribution

of Bibles and Christian literature,” faced the Haidian District Court on April 9, said advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA).

Other judges ruled on two occasions that Shi was “innocent,” but one of China ‘s main law enforcement agencies, the Public Security Bureau (PSB) refused to release him from a Beijing detention, according to local Christians and rights groups.

During the latest hearing, “His attorney Zhang Xingshui made a three-hour defense of Shi Weihan’s innocence,” said CAA. The lawyer stressed, his client’s “acts did not constitute a crime, because he was not engaged in illegal business” and he did “not disturb the social ormarket order,” the group added, apparently citing court records.

Relatives At Hearing

CAA said Shi Weihan’s wife Zhang Jing, his parents, and three friends were allowed to attend the trial. “They were able to make eye contact with him and nod,but otherwise they were not allowed to communicate.”

CAA quoted them as saying that he appeared “thin, but healthy”.

Chinese police reportedly brought no new evidence, but stressed their concerns over the alleged “printing of illegal books.”

The judge previously refused to convict Shi Weihan. Lawyer Zhang Xingshui said in published remarks that under China’s criminal law, if convicted, Shi Weihan’s could face up to fours years imprisonment if convicted.

Zhang said the court is required to issue a verdict within 45 days.

Chinese government has denied rights abuses, but claims it upholds the laws of the land. Authorities say Christians are free to worshop within government backed churches. There are up to 130 million Christians in China .