By Ethan Cole
Christian Post Reporter
Mon, Jul. 07 2008 09:49 AM EDT
One month from Tuesday before the start of the Beijing Olympic Games, Christians are still reportedly being persecuted by the Chinese government, which claims to uphold international religious freedom standards.
The Olympic host detained for a second time a Christian bookstore owner on charges of “illegal printing of religious material,” China Aid Association recently learned.
Shi Weihan, who legally runs a religious bookstore in Beijing, sold only materials permissible by the government in his bookstore. But he also printed Bibles and Christian literature without authorization for distribution to local house churches.
In China, the government monitors the printing of religious literature, including the Bible. The government also overseas religious worship and allows people of faith to hold gatherings only in state-sanctioned religious facilities.
Protestant Christians are only allowed to worship in registered churches under the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, although millions of Christians attend unregistered house churches at the risk of being arrested.
Shi was first arrested with his wife in November 2007. His wife was soon released, but he remained in custody.
After massive media pressure, Beijing authorities released Shi on grounds of “insufficient evidence.” However, he was re-arrested on March 19 and has been held since without family and lawyer visitation rights, according to his wife, Zhang Jing. Zhang also said she has not received any update on her husband’s health condition, and said she is “very concerned” because he has diabetes, according to CAA.
In addition to his isolation, Shi’s June 19 court hearing on possible charges never took place, according to sources of the persecution watchdog agency Compass Direct.
June 19 marked the end of Shi’s three months of detention without charges. The Public Security Bureau is not legally allowed to detain Chinese citizens for more than two months without formal charges under Chinese law.
Other details of the Chinese government’s crackdown on unregistered Christians, including a campaign to eradicate house churches ahead of the Olympics, are detailed in a report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide and China Aid Association that was released last month.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended again this year to the State Department to keep China on its religious freedom blacklist because of its treatment of house churches and religious minorities.
On Sunday, President Bush defended his announcement last week on plans to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing despite concerns about China’s human rights record. He explained that not going to the Olympics would be an “affront to the Chinese people” and would make it “more difficult to be able to speak frankly with the Chinese leadership,” according to the New York Times.
Human rights groups, some congressmen and Christian leaders have called on Bush to boycott the Games in protest of China’s crackdown on protestors in Tibet, support of the Sudanese government, and treatment of North Korean refugees.
Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, urges prayer for the religious freedom situation in China, noting the positive changes that have occurred because of prayer.
“There was a rumor around that the Chinese government was not going to allow any Bibles at all during the Olympics,” Moeller said, according to Mission Network News. “Of course, Christians around the world prayed, and the Chinese government quickly retracted that statement. And to complete the circle, they issued an Olympic rings edition of the Bible.”
China last month announced it will print 50,000 Chinese-English Gospel booklets for the Olympic Games.
Open Doors has organized a prayer campaign for Christians in the West to pray at least one minute each day at 8 p.m. Beijing time (8 a.m. EDT). The “One Minute/One Year/One Country” campaign began Aug. 8, 2007 and will run until Aug. 8, 2008 – the day the Beijing Games begin.
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