China Postpones Trial Of Detained Christian Bookstore Owner

Monday, March 23, 2009

By Eric Leijenaar, Senior Special Correspondent Worthy News and Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos

shi and his wife and two daughters before his detention.

BEIJING, CHINA (Worthy News) -- A Chinese court has postponed the trial of an owner of Christian bookstore, who has been detained since last year for the "illegal distribution of Bibles and Christian literature," well-informed observers told Worthy News Monday, March 23.

Shi Weihan, 38, was to face a Beijing court Friday, March 20, but the court postponed the case "indefinitely", said Christian advocacy group Open Doors.

No reason was immediately announced. Judges ruled on two occasions that Shi was "innocent," but one of China's main law enforcement agencies, the Public Security Bureau (PSB) refused to release him from a Beijing detention facility, Open Doors said.

Earlier another rights group, China Aid Association (CAA), told Worthy News and its partner news agency BosNewsLife that Shi was "coerced to sign and recognize a confession convicting him of 'engaging in the printing and distribution of a large number of illegal publications'".

Netherlands-based Open Doors said it had asked Dutch Christians to send letters to encourage Shi's family and to protest against his detention.


"Shi loves his country, but is now being held behind bars although he was found innocent," added Open Doors spokesman Jan Vermeer.

He said the detention comes despite concerns over his health. Investigators of Open Doors and CAA told Worthy News that apparent poor prison conditions and refusal of diabetes medication have contributed to Shi’s health troubles.

"He suffers of diabetics and, because of the unhygienic circumstances in his prison, has blisters and ear problems," Vermeer added. He said Shi lost 20 kilograms and currently weights 59 kilograms.

His wife Zhang Jing en daughters Shi Jia, 12, and Shi En Mei, 8, also suffer under Shi's imprisonment, Open Doors said. At school his children were reportedly called "the daughters of a criminal."


"Daughter En Mei asked her mother to search for a new father," Open Doors said. "When her mother asked her why she asked this "strange question' En Mei answered: "Because they say that my father is a bad man."

Chinese authorities have denied human rights abuses, and say they only enforce the law.

However several Western observers say Chinese officials have increased a crackdown on Christians outside the official churches in an attempt to control the spread of Christianity in the Communist nation.

Officials have privately admitted there are at least 130 million Christians in the country, the fastest growing group of Christians in the world.