WHILST WE IN THE WEST enjoy our freedom to produce, import and sell pretty well anything we want to — including, ironically, huge quantities of Bibles and other Christian books printed in China — Christians in China are only permitted to print and sell books under strict government regulations.
Yesterday, June 10, 2009, Chinese Christian bookshop owner Shi Weihan finally fell foul of those regulations: a Beijing Court found him guilty of “illegal business operation”, issued him with a 3 year prison sentence and a fine of 150,000 yuan (approx £13,314).
Sources said Shi’s store operated legally and sold only books for which he had obtained government permission, and that his Holy Spirit Trading Co. printed Bibles and Christian literature without authorization but only for free distribution to local house churches.
The 38-year-old Shi had been released on Jan. 4, 2008 due to insufficient evidence for the same vague charge of “illegal business operation,” but he was arrested again two month later, on March 19, and held virtually incommunicado. Contrary to Chinese law, authorities have denied all but a few visits from his lawyer and family, held him without charges for most of his time in jail, and initially withheld medication for his diabetes.
Shi’s story has been extensively reported by Open Doors and other groups campaigning for freedom of religion and against persecution of Christians in China.