By Worthy News Staff
BEIJING, CHINA (Worthy News) -- Chinese Christians on Wednesday, July 1, were awaiting the international community to "pray and act" on behalf of jailed Christian house church leader Shi Weihan and six of his associates who have been sentenced to prison terms for allegedly printing Bibles and Christian books without government approval, their supporters said.
"Most of the books Shi Weihan published were Bibles and Christian books," added former house church pastor Bob Fu, who currently leads advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA).
"He distributed them free of charge, because the Chinese government does not permit Bibles to be sold in public bookstores, and there is a great need for them," he told Worthy News and its partner agency BosNewsLife. "We call upon Christian book authors and those who placed orders for printing Bibles and Christian literature to speak out for Shi and his family."
On June 10 the Beijing Court found Shi Weihan, 38, guilty of "illegal business operation" and sentenced him to three years in prison and 150,000 Yuan fine (about $22,000 USD) for printing and distributing Bibles at no cost. Six of his associated, also received criminal sentences for "illegal business operation."
Tian Hongxia, who worked for Shi Weihan, was fined three years in prison and 150,000 yuan. The other five sentenced were Li Fengshan, Zhou Xin, Cheng Xiaojing, Lű Yuequan and Li Zong, all shareholders and employees of Xinshu Printing Company Ltd. of Beijing, the printing company which printed the Bibles and Christian books.
Their sentences range from one to two years with fines from 60,000 yuan to 120,000 yuan, trial observers said. Shi's wife has hired Christian lawyer Li Fangping to represent him to appeal the verdict, CAA said. The appeal process is expected to take up to one year.
It comes at a time when "Shi Weihan’s wife Zhang Jing and their two daughters, 12-year-old Shi Jia and 8-year-old Shi En Mei, are under tremendous pressure from authorities," CAA said.
The crackdown comes amid reported concerns within Chinese government about the spread of Christianity in the Communist-run nation. Chinese officials say they are upholding the law and that Christians can observe their faith within state structures, such as the state-run churches.