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Beijing store owner jailed without charges

SALEM, Ill. (BP)–A lifelong Beijing resident whose bookstore is within two miles of the Olympic Village site was arrested by the Beijing Public Security Bureau Nov. 28 and since has been held without charges.

Shi Weihan (whose name is pronounced SURE), 37, has been held at an undisclosed location and denied contact with his family or a legal representative, Illinois businessman Ray Sharpe confirmed to Baptist Press Dec. 10.

One of Shi’s associates, Tian Hongxia, also has been held since Nov. 28 without charges.

Shi is no dissident and had not faced any difficulties with Chinese authorities previously, Sharpe said. Rather, Shi is “a solid Christian believer who wants to practice his faith in his private life and his business.”

Shi’s Christian literature bookstore is located in a modern high-rise business tower, Sharpe said. Shi also is a travel agent and, as an entrepreneur, has been involved in exports and advertising. Shi’s bookstore only sold books for which he had received government permission, Sharpe said.

Shi is a diabetic, and Sharpe is concerned for his health. Sharpe said officers at the local Public Security Bureau substation initially refused to receive Shi’s medication from family members. The family persisted by returning to the PSB substation and officers subsequently accepted the medication but gave no guarantee it would be delivered to him, Sharpe said.

Police confiscated computers, business records and Christian materials from both Shi’s home and business on Nov. 28, Sharpe said.

Shi’s wife, Zhang Jing, was arrested and later released after questioning as were Shi’s younger brother and his wife. Zhang’s arrest was witnessed by the couple’s two daughters, Grace, 7, who is a U.S. citizen by her birth in the United States during a 2000 visit, and Lily, 11, Sharpe said, and the mother and daughters are now in hiding.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing has been alerted, especially because of Grace’s U.S. citizenship, Sharpe said.

When Shi’s associate, Tian, was arrested, her father was severely beaten by the police, Sharpe said. Family members are concerned for the well-being of Tian’s 3-year-old son in the absence of his mother.

The arrest of Shi and Tian also has been reported by two advocacy organizations for persecuted Christians, the China Aid Association based in Texas and Compass Direct News based in California.

Sharpe, president of Bethel Energy Group in Salem, Ill., said he had been working through Shi to obtain Chinese oil field workers and equipment for operations in the United States. China Aid said Shi has been active in promoting foreign travel to China for next year’s Olympics in Beijing.

Sharpe urged individuals to contact the China Ministry of Foreign Affairs at 011-86-10-65592311 or 011-86-10-13910869861; the Beijing Public Security Bureau’s Haidian District Substation at 011-86-10-82510110 or 011-86-10-82519350; and their congressmen and senators, via the Capitol switchboard, at 202-224-3121.
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.