Three Christians in China were sentenced to jail for printing Bibles and other Christian writings without government authorization.
On Tuesday, the Beijing Peoples Intermediate Court charged Cai Zhuohua, a house church minister; Xiao Yunfei, Cais wife; and Xiao Gaowen, Xiaos brother with illegal business practices and handed prison sentences of up to three years after police found a large number of Bibles and religious materials in a church warehouse.
Cai, who had been arrested since last September, was sentenced to three years in prison while his wife and brother-in-law for two and 18-months respectively. The court ruling for Cai and his two co-defendants came less than two weeks before President Bushs Nov. 19-21 meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.
This is not an acceptable result, said Bob Fu, president of the China Aid Association in a released statement. We urge President Bush to use his upcoming visit to China to address the serious religious persecution in this case.
During the trial, the defendants were accused by the prosecution of illegally printing 200,000 copies of the Bible, though there was no mention of how many actual copies there were when the verdict was announced, Reuters reported. Yet in July, a Hong Kong newspaper funded by Beijing, Ta Kung Pao, quoted Chinas director of the state bureau of religious affairs, Ye Xiaowen, as saying Cai illegally printed 40 million Bibles and other Christian writings, according to Reuters. Furthermore, Ye accused Cai of illegally selling over two million copies of the Bible instead of giving them away for free.
The prosecution could not find a witness to testify that my son received any money, Cais mother, Cai Laiyi, told Reuters after attending the hearing. But Im not sad or angry because this is Gods arrangement.
In addition to the jail sentence, the court fined minister Cai 200,000 Yuan (US $24,731.90); his wife 150,000 Yuan (US$18,548.90); and her brother 100,000 Yuan (US $12,365.90).
Ye asserted that the case is not religious persecution.
Objectively speaking, religion is a point of penetration through which Western anti-China forces seek to Westernize and disintegrate China," a Hong Kong newspaper quoted Ye as saying.
In China, the printing of Bibles and religious materials requires the approval of the State Bureau of Religious Affairs. Moreover, Bibles cannot be purchased publicly in bookstores.
Defense Attorney Gao Zhisheng, however, told AsiaNews, The books in no way were going to enter the market, they were to be given away free of charge to the church members. Trade transactions, whether legal or illegal, are not a question here."
The court should not be used to oppress religion and religious freedoms, but the authorities are always using economics as a pretext to deal with religious and political issues, he added. This happens far too much in China, where the court is being used as a tool.
According to Reuters, the defendants are expected to appeal within the available timeframe of 10 days with eight lawyers and legal experts having offered their services to the defendants free of charge.