By BosNewsLife News Center
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)-- Chinese authorities have released on bail the owner of a Christian bookstore near Beijing's Olympic Village and fellow workers, amid international pressure, after detaining them last month on charges of "illegal printing and distribution of Christian literature," BosNewsLife learned Tuesday, January 8.
The advocacy group representing the Christians, China Aid Association (CAA), told BosNewsLife that Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan and "two dozen others associated with his case" were released Friday, January 4, after "37 days of detention." More details surrounding the bail conditions were not immediately clear.
However "according to Chinese law after 37 days of administrative detention, a formal arrest warrant must be issued or the accused must be released," CAA explained. The Beijing Haidian District prosecution office assigned to Shia's case reportedly determined that they were unable to proceed with formal charges due to "insufficient evidence." There was no independent confirmation from officials.
Yet, "Regardless of the reasoning for Shia's unconditional release, it is evident that international attention and pressure on the case were instrumental in influencing the court's decision," CAA said. CAA President Bob Fu described the move as "a positive step in the right direction" by the Chinese government.
"This is a clear victory of rule of law and international intervention." He said the move comes after last month's Chinese Communist Party's conference on religion and religious policy. At that meeting Chinese President Hu Jintao reportedly reiterated the government's stance on the "implementation of a free religious policy", adding it was important to support self-governance of religious groups within Chinese law.
Fu said however that while the apparent government decision to free Shi Weihan and others "should be lauded, hundreds of prisoners persecuted for their beliefs, still remain in custody." As an example he mentioned Xinjiang church leader Zhou Heng, who was arrested in August of 2007, for receiving "illegally printed Bibles.
Zhou, who was arraigned on the same charges as Shi Weihan, continues to serve what Fu described as "an unjust sentence behind bars." He said these are "examples of the Chinese government's failure to remain consistent in cases receiving less international attention."
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