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China Jails Handicapped House Church Leader For Printing Bibles

Monday, October 23, 2006 | Tag Cloud

By BosNewsLife News Center

BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- China sentenced a crippled prominent house church leader to two years in prison on charges of "illegal business practices" after he printed and distributed Bibles for other Christians "free of charge", fellow believers confirmed Friday, October 20.

House Church Pastor Wang Zaiqing from Anhui Province was officially sentenced on October 9, but news of the detention was only released Friday, October 20, BosNewsLife learned. The pastor also received a fine of 100,000 Yuan ($12,500.00), while printing funds and Christian books were confiscated, said China Aid Association, a US-based religious rights group representing house churches in China.

"This is the third time in recent history that the Chinese government has used a criminal business related charge against a house church pastor," said Bob Fu, a former Chinese house church pastor who fled to the West and now leads CAA.

"Beijing Pastor Cai Zhuohua was sentenced to three years in prison in 2005 for printing Christian literature. This is typical of the Chinese government to persecute religious leaders by criminalizing their religious activities," he told BosNewsLife in a statement.

Pastor Wang, who was crippled at the age of 5, became a 'born-again' Christian in 1993, and later a well-known House Church planter and preacher in several provinces around Anhui Province, CAA said.

PRINTING BIBLES

He had been printing and distributing Bibles and other Christian literature to fellow believers free of charge, which reportedly resulted in his arrest by the local Public Security Bureau on April 28, this year.

After months of pre-trial arrest, the local prosecutor filed a case against the pastor last month, which led to his eventual prison sentence. According to an indictment received by BosNewsLife, Wang Zaiqing violated Chinese Criminal Law Article 225, Items 1 and 4, by printing Bibles and other Christian literature, "thus subjected to the investigation of his criminal responsibility."

Wang’s defense lawyer, Sun Hongye, said his client was "innocent" as the pastor’s books "were distributed at no cost." He also questioned Chinese authorities allegations that the books printed by Wang Zaiqing were illegal publications.

However in published remarks, the court agreed with the prosecution that "Wang has in reality disturbed the market order, thus committed the crime of Illegal Business Practice." The court also argued that the pastors books were "published without the permission of the News & Publication Bureau of the Province-level."

APPEAL PLANNED

Wang Zaiqing and his attorney plan to appeal the sentence. Li Baiguang, a prominent legal scholar on constitutional law has volunteered to be part of Pastor Wang’s defense team. Li is a member of the Association of Human-Rights Attorneys and met US President George W. Bush in May this year at the White House along with two other house church members.

"It is totally unacceptable for Chinese authorities to arrest this pious crippled pastor simply for printing Bibles," Fu said.

He added his group has appealed to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who heads the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion, to voice his concerns over the alleged lack of religious freedom in China when he officially ends his two-week trip to the Communist-run nation Monday, October 23.

CAA also asked supporters to write and call Chinese embassies to protest the detention. Most of China’s estimated up to 80-million Christians gather in ‘house churches’ named this way as they are often held in homes of believers or other alternative accommodation due to a lack of permission to gather in official church buildings. China’s Communist authorities have denied human rights abuses saying Christians are allowed to gather in the 'official' government backed denominations. (With BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos and reports from China).

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Worthy Christian News » Christian Persecution » China » China Jails Handicapped House Church Leader For Printing Bibles