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Chinese rearrest businessman for printing Christian materials

BEIJING (BP)–Shi Weihan, a Chinese bookstore owner in Beijing, has been rearrested for publishing Bibles and Christian literature during a time when a shortage of such materials has been reported in China.

Shi, a 37-year-old father of two daughters, was taken into custody for a second time March 19 and has been held without family visits, China Aid Association said in a news release April 22.

“His wife said she received no word on her husband’s condition, and she has been prevented from bringing any food or change of clothing since his rearrest,” Daniel Burton, a spokesman for China Aid, told Baptist Press. “She is very concerned about his health due to his diabetes and the deprivation and torture that’s often used by Public Security Bureau officials on the arrested.”

Burton said Shi’s second arrest was unexpected.

“It comes as a big surprise to us because he was released on insufficient evidence back in January,” Burton said, referring to Shi’s first imprisonment, which began in November.

Another bookstore owner, Zhou Heng, was arrested and detained in Xinjiang province in August for receiving a shipment of Bibles. Zhou revealed last week that he had been cleared of charges and released from prison in February, the news release said.

Shi is not a dissident and had not faced any difficulties with Chinese authorities prior to last fall, Illinois businessman Ray Sharpe told Baptist Press in December. 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 within two miles of the Olympic Village, Sharpe, a longtime friend, 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.

Police confiscated computers, business records and Christian materials from both Shi’s home and business when he was arrested in November. His 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.

In January, prosecutors assigned to Shi’s case said they were unable to proceed due to “insufficient evidence” related to the charges that were eventually filed: illegal printing and distribution of Christian literature.

Compass Direct News said April 18 that Chinese pastors both from house churches and the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement have reported a shortage of Bibles and Christian materials in Beijing and other parts of the country. The shortage, the news service said, is due in part to church growth and also to Bible confiscation.

Shi apparently had been concerned about publishing unauthorized books but because the churches needed them, he decided the risk was worth taking, Compass Direct said.

Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs, told Baptist Press in March that he has noticed a crackdown on Christians ahead of the Beijing Olympics, scheduled for Aug. 8-24.

“Whether that’s to send a message to the church to lay low or whether it is to make sure that anybody who might cause international embarrassment is taken care of ahead of time, I don’t know,” Nettleton said. “But we do see an increase in the level of arrests, the level of house church services being raided, that sort of activity.”

China Aid, in its 2007 Persecution Report released in February, identified four categories of persecution: against house church leaders, against house churches in urban areas, against Christian publications and against foreign Christians and missionaries.

Concerned individuals are urged 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. Burton of China Aid also suggested calling the Chinese Embassy in Washington at 202-338-6688.
Compiled by Erin Roach, Baptist Press staff writer.

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