A Chinese court has upheld a seven-year prison sentence for a businessman who was arrested and charged with “illegal business operation” for selling thousands of Bibles and Christian books.
Chen Yu, the owner of a Christian online bookstore, was sentenced in 2020 for selling more than 20,000 Bibles and Christian books – many of which were published in Taiwan and the United States, Bitter Winter reported. Law enforcement found more than 12,000 books on his premises and destroyed them.
An appeals court in recent days upheld that 2020 decision, Bitter Winter reported.
Chen had sold books to clients in Shandong, Henan and other provinces and was left “comparatively undisturbed” by authorities until 2019 when he was arrested, Bitter Winter said. The fact that he sold books by Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu may have led to his arrest. Wang himself is serving a prison term for operating an illegal house church and criticizing China’s persecution of house churches.
The prosecutor called Chen’s bookstore an “anti-Chinese conspiracy.”
Chen is an inmate in a detention center in Zhejiang province.
Gina Goh, International Christian Concern’s regional manager for Southeast Asia, said the seven-year sentence for Chen demonstrates “how the Chinese government is increasingly frightened by all things religious.”
“From religious symbols, Chinese couplets, to Christian books, anything that features religious elements is no longer tolerated by the Chinese Communist Party,” Goh said. “The disproportionate sentencing of Christians, such as Early Rain Covenant Church Pastor Wang Yi and Chen Yu, under the same charge implies that the crackdown against Christianity will only intensify. The US government and international community should continue to stand up to the tyranny in Beijing.”
Christians who bought the books from Chen could be in jeopardy.
“People who buy Christian books are practicing believers, so the government looks into them to determine how dangerous they are to the stability of their regime,” a house church pastor previously told Bitter Winter.
Photo courtesy: James Coleman/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.