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Imprisoned Chinese Bible Printer Released After 3 Years

Chinese house church pastor Cai Zhuohua was released last week after serving a three-year prison term for printing Bibles and religious materials.

The prominent religious leader is reportedly in good health and was told by government officials to be silent about his ordeal, stated China Aid Association, which often reports about persecution of Christians in China.

Furthermore, Cai is expected to report to the Public Security Bureau office every month, added CAA in a press release Friday.

According to the Texas-based organization, the Beijing-based pastor spent time in prison making soccer balls 10 to 12 hours a day for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

State security officers had seized Cai in September 2004 and confiscated more than 200,000 copies of Christian literature including bibles printed privately from a storage space.

The pastor's wife was later handed a two-year prison sentence, while his brother was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Cai's trial and subsequent three-year prison sentence in a Chinese court the following year provoked international outcry from human rights and religious freedom groups.

In 2005, Human Rights Watch, the NGO dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world, endorsed an open letter of protest to China President Hu Jintao.

That same year, a CAA staff member also met with U.S. President George W. Bush in the oval office to discuss Cai's ordeal.

The United States Commission on International Human Rights has included China on its list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs), and in its 2006 report referred to Cai's case among that of many others.

Beijing currently only allows Christians to worship at state-owned churches and strictly monitors the printing and distribution of biblical materials.

While the communist country claims that it has printed a sufficient number of Bibles, overseas evangelical groups often point out that access to such religious materials remains difficult in China – where distribution centers are limited to a handful of authorized bookstores and state-owned churches.

Printing and distributing bibles privately without government permission is considered an "illegal business operation," as stipulated in China's current Criminal Law.

Earlier this month, house church leader Zhou Heng was arrested in the southwest autonomous region of Xinjiang after receiving 3 tons of Bibles printed from another city.

Despite Cai's release last Monday, CAA president Bob Fu insists that the fight for Cai's human rights is not over.

"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 Fu in Friday's statement, referring to how Cai will continue to be monitored.

"We urge the international community to continue to press the worsening situation on religious freedom and human rights in China."

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