China maintains 7-year prison sentence for Christian bookstore owner

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An appeals court in China has upheld a seven-year prison sentence for an online Christian bookstore owner who was convicted in 2020 for illegally selling Christian religious books.

Linhai Municipal Court in Taizhou, east China’s Zhejiang Province, dismissed the appeal and upheld the sentence against Chen Yu, director of the Wheat Bookstore in Taizhou, Bitter Winter reported on the 11th. January.

Chen was arrested on September 1, 2020 and charged with “illegal commercial exploitation” for selling Christian books. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 200,000 yuan (US $ 31,420) by the Linhai City Court later that month.

Chen, who is also known by his social media alias Zhang Mai, is a popular figure with Christians in Zhejiang and other places. He is said to have sold over 20,000 books, mostly Bibles and other Christian religious books. He had clients in various provinces of China, including Henan and Shandong.

He ran his bookstore through Weidian, a Chinese e-commerce app that has more than 80 million sellers in 211 countries. Chen is said to have had over 10,000 clients.

Media report that Chen enraged authorities by carrying Chinese religious books published in the United States and Taiwan. He also sold thousands of books from Pastor Wang Yi, a popular leader of the Early Rain Convent Church in Chengdu, who was jailed for nine years in 2019.

Following Chen’s Sentencing in 2020, Human Rights Group Said “Beijing Fears All Things Religious”

Pastor Wang has been charged with “inciting the subversion of state power” and his books have been banned throughout China.

Police accused Chen of being an “anti-China force” and officers raided clients’ homes and confiscated their purchases, Radio Free Asia reported.

Following Chen’s conviction in 2020, a rights group declared that “Beijing is afraid of anything religious.”

Communist China is an officially atheist state. However, it recognizes five organized religions – Buddhism, Taosim, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam. In accordance with Chinese laws, all religions and religious activities must strictly adhere to the rules and regulations prescribed by the Chinese Communist Party.

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China’s religious affairs regulations published in 2018 make it a criminal offense to carry out any religious activity without the prior authorization of the authorities. They also include a ban on preaching and publications that promote religions and religious indoctrination.

Over the years, Chinese authorities have arrested, tortured, and imprisoned Christian clergy, church members, and publishers for producing and selling religious books, including the Bible, in print and digital formats.

China is ranked 17th out of 50 countries where Christians face severe forms of persecution by the American Christian group Open Doors.

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