China (MNN) — 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.
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
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."