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02/08/2022 Washington, D.C.—On July 2, 2020, four Christians in China’s Guangdong province —Fu Xuanjuan, Deng Tianyong, Han Li, and Feng Qunhao—were arrested on charges of “illegal business operations” for selling audio Bible players. 

Fu is the general manager and executive director of Life Tree Culture Communication Co., Ltd., and her husband, Deng, is the company’s supervisor. Their company was founded in April 2011 in Shenzhen, a sub-provincial city in the southern province of Guangdong. It is a legally established company that produces audio bible players, is committed to spreading biblical culture, and has cooperated with many influential churches, bookstores, institutions, and sales agents at home and abroad. 

The four were detained in the Jiuwei Detention Center in Shenzhen, and the authorities threatened their families and lawyers not to reveal any information about the case. 

On Oct. 23, 2020, Shenzhen Bao’an People’s Procuratorate charged the four Christians with varying degrees of sentences. As the general manager and executive director of Life Tree Culture Communication Co., the suggested sentence for Fu is five years; Deng as the company’s supervisor, is three years with a fine; Feng as the technician, also three years with a fine, while Han as the accountant 18 months with fine. After being detained for the equivalent duration of her sentence, Han Li was released on Oct. 1, 2021. 

The Life Tree Company case has been through several trials, and the verdict was finalized on July 16, 2021. As the receptionist, Han obtained the shortest sentence: 15 months. Although Han had attempted to appeal her sentence, since she knew that her detention duration would reach the same length as her sentence in August, she did not pursue this route. 

Han’s original attorney, Yang Hui, had to withdraw from Han’s case last February since he has been targeted by the authorities for defending Christians and Hong Kongers, such as imprisoned pastor John Cao and 12 Hong Kong activists. Huang Derqi took over and pled not guilty for Han, claiming she was merely an accomplice and did not endanger society. 

Although the Procuratorate in Bao’an District suggested Han’s sentence be reduced to one year accompanied by a fine after Huang’s plea, on July 16, the People’s Court in Bao’an District still sentenced Han to 15 months 10,000 yuan ($1551 USD). 

On December 16, 2021, Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court in Guangdong province held the appeal court for the remaining three employees of Life Tree Company: Fu, her husband Deng, and Feng. The appeal for their “illegal business operation” charges was rejected, and the Court sustained the original ruling: Fu was sentenced to five years; Deng, three years with a fine; Feng, also three years with a fine. 

The verdict reads, “After investigation, based on the testimonies of the appellant and the defendants of the First Instance, along with evidence such as the witnesses’ testimonies and audit reports, it is confirmed that from Jan 2018 to June 2020, Shenzhen city Life Tree Technology Development company illegally sold audio players with Bible or other religious content and obtained CNY 3661847.84 of profits.” 

In China’s latest crackdown against Christianity, it has become increasingly difficult to purchase a Bible online or through private sellers. One must go to the state-vetted Three-Self churches to purchase Bibles. Those who sell Bibles without authorization are hit with fines or incarceration, as in the cases of Life Tree and Christian entrepreneur Lai Jinqiang, who was also put on trial in Guangdong Province in December 2020 for producing audio Bible players. 

“For my life, I want to do something meaningful — I want to help people so they can draw near and believe in Jesus.” Deng Tianyong, after his life, was transformed by coming to Christ. 

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This story is part of ICC’s series Shackled to the Podium, a series where we remember those who have suffered or are currently suffering persecution by the Chinese Communist Party on account of their faith. This series will populate daily for the duration of the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Click here to read more about the project. 

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Since 1995, ICC has served the global persecuted church through a three-pronged approach of advocacy, awareness, and assistance. ICC exists to bandage the wounds of persecuted Christians and to build the church in the toughest parts of the world.