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8th January
2008
  

Intolerance Marathon...

Bible publisher imprisoned in China

Bible ban A Christian bookshop owner has been arrested in China for printing copies of the Bible.

Police seized Shi Weihan the owner of Holy Spirit Trading Company. He is accused of conducting "illegal operations" and remains in custody, more than a month after his arrest.

The police confiscated almost all of the Christian literature and Bibles stored in the home he shares with his wife, Zhang Jing, and seized all the books in his bookshop.

Ms Zhang said that, while the books in their shop were legally printed and sold in China, her husband privately published many Christian books and Bibles without authorisation and distributed them among local home churches: this was the reason for his arrest: He was worried about publishing these unauthorised books. But the church needed these books and so he felt it was a risk worth taking."

China Aid Organisation (CAA) says the country has launched a crackdown on unauthorised religious groups ahead of the Olympic Games. Shi's bookshop, in an upmarket office block, is less than two miles from the main Olympics venue.

With eight months to go before the Olympics, the government is taking great pains to paint itself to the international community as a country of religious tolerance. It says local Christian groups will be encouraged to hand out Bibles to athletes and spectators during the event.

The CAA says Shi is being held in an unheated cell and is subjected to sleep deprivation. Ms Zhang says she has been denied visitor rights to see her husband and so is "not clear" about his condition.

China detains thousands of members of religious groups every year; some 70 members of a Protestant home church in eastern Shandong province are still being held after their arrest in early December for taking part in an "illegal religious gathering," according to the CAA.

 

9th January
2008
  

Update: China Shows a Little Christianity...

Bible publisher released in China

Bible ban China Aid Association (CAA) has learned that Christian bookstore owner, Shi Weihan has been released on bail.

Chinese officials have decided against a formal trial for Shi, and criminal charges against him have been dropped.

Eyewitnesses told CAA that Shi was in good spirits and relatively stable physical condition. Shi's family members asked CAA to thank the international community for their "tireless efforts" in seeking his release.

Shi, and some of his colleagues, were detained for 37 days under charges of illegal printing and distribution of Christian literature.

Sources state that the Beijing Haidian District prosecution office assigned to Shi's case determined that they were unable to proceed with formal charges due to "insufficient evidence".

Regardless of the reason for Shi's unconditional release, it is evident that international attention and pressure on the case were instrumental in influencing the court's decision, said CAA.

 

23rd April
2008
  

Update: Bible Seller for the High Jump...

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Bible publisher re-arrested in China

Bible ban A bookstore owner in Beijing has been re-arrested for publishing Bibles and Christian literature after he had been released in January due to “insufficient evidence.”

Shi Weihan was re-arrested on March 19 and has been held without any family visits allowed, according to his wife Zhang Jing. Shi was first arrested on November 28, 2007, and held until January 4.

His wife said she had received no word on her husband's condition, and she has been prohibited from bringing him any food or change of clothing since his re-arrest.

Operating a bookstore located near the Olympic Village, Shi had never had any problems with authorities before his arrest last November, according to a long-time friend. His bookstore operated legally, and it sold only books for which he had obtained government permission.

The arrest of Shi appears to be part of a crackdown on religious groups that the government fears could raise dissident voices during Olympic Games set to begin in August.

 

3rd May
2008
  

Update: Dangerous Religious Element...

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China holds bible seller in prison

Bible banAn advocacy organization reported this week that Chinese authorities now accuse a Beijing businessman of being a dangerous religious element – which a long-time friend dismissed as contrary to Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan'
s gentle, patriotic nature.

Authorities have been slow to reveal charges against Shi, who after his original arrest for illegal business practices on November 28, 2007 was released on January 4 due to insufficient evidence. He was re-arrested on March 19, according to his wife Zhang Jing, for printing Bibles and Christian literature.

Until last week he had been denied a visit by his attorney. Following that visit, China Aid Association reported that authorities were holding Shi at the Beijing Municipal Detention Center as a dangerous religious element.

During the meeting with his attorney, Shi'
s talk was interrupted by the guards on several occasions and he received a warning,
according to a statement by CAA. Interrogation of Shi, the lawyer told CAA, has centered on his relationship with foreigners, especially those from the United States.

Long-time friend Ray Sharpe said that Shi'
s many foreign relationships as a travel agent may have raised undue suspicions by Chinese authorities.

Update: Still Being Held

23rd June 2008

Despite having held Shi beyond the time legally allowed, absent formal charges or a court hearing, the Public Security Bureau still refuses to allow his family or attorney to see him,” said a source close to Shi'
s lawyer. Claiming an ongoing investigation in what they are calling ‘a complex case,'
 they have managed to hold the owner of a legally registered Christian bookstore in an undisclosed location without giving any assurances that he is receiving his needed diabetic medicine.

The Public Security Bureau has stated that it will delay action on the case indefinitely, raising questions about Shi'
s health and safety.

Update: Denied Medication

9th September 2008

Shi Weihan is awaiting the outcome of an August 19 court appearance and may be back in court within 10 days, according to Compass sources.

Denied proper medication and diet for his diabetes, Shi is almost “unrecognizable” due to severe weight loss, according to family members.

 

11th June
2009
  

Update: Repression of Biblical Proportions...

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Chinese man jailed for 3 years for distributing free Bibles

China Bible ban A Beijing court has found Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan guilty of illegal business operation and sentenced him to three years in prison and a 150,000 yuan (US$21,975) fine.

Sources said Shi's store operated legally and sold only books for which he had obtained government permission, and that his Holy Spirit Trading Co. printed Bibles and Christian literature without authorization but only for free distribution to local house churches.

Others in a printing company who stood trial with Shi appeared to have received similar sentences. A written judgment is expected within 15 days to allow time for an appeal to be filed, said Ray Sharpe, a friend of Shi.

Chinese officials claim that the Nanjing Amity Printing Co. (Amity Press), the only government-approved Bible publisher, produces enough Bibles to meet the needs of the Chinese church, which various religious freedom organizations dispute. The groups complain that Amity prints a large share of its Bibles for export, and those sold domestically are not available to many Christians.

 

12th June
2009
  

Economic Censorship...

New Zealand censorship fees deter releases of niche market titles

L Word DVD A New Zealand film and television classification laws are being brought into question with many businesses calling them outdated and prohibitive.

Every film or television show that comes to New Zealand cinemas, video stores or retail outlets has to be rated. New Zealand adopts or cross-rates G, PG and M ratings from Australia and Britain but 15 and 18 rated films must be classified by New Zealand censors.

Video store owner Andrew Armitage says businesses just want fairness with classification laws: We're not asking for a relaxation of classification or censorship we just want fairness restored because it is too often prohibitive . Armitage wants to see the threshold raised for the 15 plus age group.

Chief Censor Bill Hastings says they have been warned against such a move. The Australian New Zealand trans-Tasman Recognition Committee has decided that there are sufficient differences between Australia and New Zealand culture and law, that they recommended against creating a single market.

For example five seasons of the television show The L Word would have cost distributors $17,600 to be processed. Armitage says such price tags are a huge deterrent: Anything that has this red sticker on it has to go through the classification process, so that's $1100 worth of classification costs right there .

Hastings says the fees have remained the same for 13 years despite inflation, making them a bargain: Our classification fees are extremely competitive with Australia classification fees which range from $500 AUD to $5000 AUD. The Chief Censor can also grant fee waivers dropping that cost to $275 each, a reduction automatically given to film festival movies.

International film festival director Bill Gosden says costs are still high despite the waiver: Although we do receive a concession rate, a fee waiver from the classification office, we still spent in excess of $30,000 last year in film censorship . Because so many titles are unavailable locally and legitimately consumers are finding other ways to access them, which retailers say not only affects business, but can also lead to illegal purchase and distribution.

 

14th June
2009
  

Update: From Human Rights Defenders to Human Rights Cases...

China bans human rights lawyers who defended christians

China Bible ban Li Dunyong, one of several lawyers involved in the defense of Uyghur house church Christian Alimjan Yimit was effectively disbarred at the end of May when Chinese authorities turned down an annual application to renew his law license.

Zhang Kai, another Beijing lawyer who had defended Alimjan, suffered the same fate.

Authorities failed to renew licenses for at least 15 other lawyers who had defended civil rights cases, religious and ethnic minorities and political dissidents, according to watch group Human Rights in China (HRIC).

During a process of Annual Inspection and Registration for all lawyers and law firms, with a closing date of May 31 for renewal applications, authorities also denied three law firms the necessary approval to practice. Officials harassed and physically abused several of the affected lawyers in the months prior to the loss of their licenses.

The process of building a country ruled by law has suffered a serious setback, HRIC claimed in a statement on June 4.

The rejection of applications followed the Feb. 4 disappearance of Gao Zhisheng, a high-profile Christian human rights activist who once said that every human rights lawyer would eventually become a human rights case. Gao's whereabouts remained unknown at press time.