Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Chinese police release bookstore owner:'This is a clear victory of rule of law and international intervention'
The owner of a Christian bookstore in China, along with several others associated with his case, have been released by police, more than a month after being summarily jailed without explanation, according to China Aid Association.Shi Weihan, who was taken into custody shortly after Thanksgiving during police raids on his home and office, is a businessman who works as a travel agent, and recently got governmental permission to publish some Christian book titles, a friend, American businessman Ray Sharpe, told WND.The government had declined to release information about Shi or where he was being held. The individuals apparently were under suspicion of illegally printing and distributing Christian literature.But China Aid this week confirmed his release, and reported eyewitnesses said he was in good spirits and relatively stable physical condition."Shi's family members asked CAA to thank the tireless efforts of the international community for his release," the organization said.The release apparently means that Chinese authorities have decided against a formal trial, and that criminal charges have been dismissed, China Aid said. The organization said under Chinese law, people can be detained administratively for 37 days, but then either a formal arrest warrant must be issued or the people released."The Chinese government has made a positive step … regarding this case," said Bob Fu, president and founder of China Aid. "This is a clear victory of rule of law and international intervention."China Aid sources reported that the Beijing Haidian District prosecution office assigned to the case ruled it was unable to proceed with formal charges because of "insufficient evidence."China Aid said the decision follows the Communist party's conference, held while Shi was jailed, on the collective study of religion and religious policy. "During the conference, President Hu Jintao reiterated the government's stance on the 'implementation of free religious policy' stressing law-abiding management on religious affairs and support to self-governances of religious groups," China Aid said.The organization, however, said China isn't consistent in such decisions yet."While the government's decision in the Shi Weihan case should be lauded, hundreds of prisoners persecuted for their beliefs still remain in custody," the group said. "As is the case of 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 an unjust sentence behind bars."These accounts, and others, are examples of the Chinese government's failure to remain consistent in cases receiving less international attention," China Aid said.The case against Shi had gotten considerable attention at least partly because he is the father of a U.S. citizen.Sharpe told WND questions were directed to both the Chinese government and the U.S. embassy because the man's daughter, Grace Shi, 7, is a U.S. citizen, and was forced into hiding with her Chinese mother and 11-year-old sister.Sharpe, who said he was able to confirm information about the family because he lived for a number of years in China, told WND Shi is a life-long resident of Beijing, but was arrested "in his Christian literature bookstore in a high-class business tower near the Olympics Village."He said Shi's younger brother and Shi's wife, Jing Zhang, also were taken into custody but were released after questioning.The family's home also was raided at 5 a.m. on Nov. 28 by members of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, Sharpe said. Officers confiscated Christian literature from the home, the family's company office, and the bookstore, he said.The daughter, Grace, is an American citizen because she was born during the family's visit to the U.S. in 2000. She and her older sister, "Lily," were distraught because they witnesses the raid on their home, Sharpe said.He told WND publishing Christian material is a "rarity" in China, but his friend recently had gotten permission from various authors, and had translated several books.It was feared the move was part of a larger crackdown several organizations have noted by China of anything or anyone who doesn't subscribe to government propaganda as the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing approach.Sharpe told WND he is convinced, "China will not tolerate one dissident voice during the Olympics."WND already has reported on China's Olympic blacklist. Fu confirmed documentation reveals that the nation will target 43 types of people with investigations – and possibly bans – when the 2008 Olympics are held.And those targeted will include "religious infiltrators," employees of media organizations, those tied to "illegal" religious organizations and others, the report said.The the information comes from a "secretly issued" notice from China's Ministry of Public Security that went to security officials and departments throughout the nation, Fu said."CAA learned from reliable internal Chinese government sources that in April of 2007, the Ministry of Public Security of the Chinese government issued a general nation-wide order, requiring strict examinations on all people both in China and overseas who will participate in the Olympic Games," the organization said. "These include members of the Olympic Committee, athletes, media and sponsors. With this, they also provide a list of 43 types of people in 11 categories to be barred from attending the Olympic Games."The document, a "Notice on Strict Background Check on Applicants for the Olympic Games and the Test Events," targets those who are considered "antagonistic elements," followers of Falun Gong and other "cults," as well as "religious extremists and religious infiltrators."Other categories include media employees "who can harm the Olympic Games," non-government organizations that "pose a real threat to the Olympic Games," those with grievances against the communist party, those under investigation by Chinese authorities, as well as "terrorists" and "members of illegal organizations."The report, China Aid Association said, lists among the targets anyone who belongs to an independent house church in China, which are identified as "illegal religious organizations" and those who have given "illegal sermons."Also targeted and banned will be "people who illegally distribute religious publications and video-audio materials" and "people who have illegally established both in China and abroad religious organizations, institutions, schools, sermon sites and other religious entities.""While CAA understands the legitimate security concern during Olympics, nevertheless we urge the Chinese government to be more transparent regarding the preparation of [the] 2008 Beijing Olympics," CAA said. "We call upon the Chinese government not to use Olympics as a cover to engage [in a] crackdown on peaceful people of faith both in China and abroad."The warning about the investigations came just after China heatedly repudiated a media report that Bibles were being banned from the housing complexes for athletes during the 2008 Games.The officials, who have expelled dozens for Christian missionaries in an apparent crackdown on Christianity in advance of the 2008 Beijing Games, called the report a "total rumor.""The Chinese government has not come up with any such rule," said spokesman Liu Jianchao.However, the official website for the 2008 Games has held a warning that visitors should not bring more than a single Bible with them.WND previously has reported on China's apparent crackdown on Christians and Christianity in advance of the 2008 Games, including the expulsion of more than 100 foreign Christians in China in just a 90-day period, the biggest assault on the presence of Christianity in China since 1954.
As in the days of Noah....