Olympic crackdown continues on Christians in China


07-07-2008 A month from tomorrow, the Olympic Games begin in Beijing. With all the attention focused on the country's human rights record, the harsh persecution of Christians has also drawn the spotlight, reports MNN.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom says that in the last year Chinese police detained 600 Protestants and sentenced 38 to more than a year in prison.

Carl Moeller with Open Doors says that gives evidence toward the ongoing campaign to eradicate house churches and silence believers. "There's a very prominent Christian, Shi Weihan, who's detained right now, in a Chinese prison. His health is deteriorating greatly (without his medicine for diabetes). He's been in since November of 2007 for 'illegal business practices,' which means running a bookstore where Bibles and other Christian materials were sold."

An expected June 19 court hearing on possible charges did not take place. Compass Direct sources in China had said that June 19 marked the end of three months of his detention without charges. Public Security Bureau (PSB) forces are not supposed to hold Chinese citizens for more than two months without formal charges.

Police initially arrested him on November 28, 2007, but with insufficient evidence to proceed, officials ordered his release on January 4. He was arrested again on March 19. Since then, police have denied all but one visit from his lawyer and refused family visits.

Insight into the reasoning behind his arrest may come from the location of his business. His bookstore is located near the Olympic Village.

According to Compass Direct, Shi operated legally and sold only books for which he had obtained government permission. Under his Holy Spirit Trading Company, Shi printed Bibles and Christian literature without authorization for distribution to local house churches.

Moeller says prayer can change many things. For example, "There was a rumor around that the Chinese government was not going to allow any Bibles at all during the Olympics. 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."