Pair left homeless and penniless after 'disproportionate' fines and prison sentences
Chinese authorities are clamping down on the distribution of Christian literature. (Photo: Open Doors UK)
A Chinese Christian couple are penniless and their children are struggling for survival following their seven-year jail sentences and heavy fines for printing and selling Christian books without permission.
A court in Xi’an in Shaanxi province of northwest China handed jail terms and fines of 250,000 yuan (US$37,240) each to Chang Yuchun, 53, and Li Chenhu, 44, in August last year. They lost an appeal against the verdict in November.
The couple ran Guang Yi Ai Sheng Printing Co. that they set up in 2015. They printed and sold Christian books including the Bible until local authorities shut it down in 2020, ChinaAid reported on May 25.
During a joint raid on July 21 last year, Xi’an Municipal Culture Law Enforcement Department and Xi’an Municipal National Security Department confiscated about 210,000 books stored in a warehouse and workshop. Officials reportedly identified 24 books that were “unauthorized for publication.”
The next day Xi’an Gaoling District police placed the couple under house arrest on a charge of “subversion of state power.” They were charged with running “illegal business operations” on Oct. 12.
Media reports say that following their sentence, the court ordered an auction and sale of the couple’s house and car to pay the fines.
The lawyer defending the couple said the sentence was disproportionate and appealed for a review. The court, however, dismissed the appeal and upheld the sentence
Amid dire financial conditions, their four children aged 4-22 are now living with Li’s elderly parents, who are aged 73 and 70 and suffering from economic woes.
The lawyer defending the couple said the sentence was disproportionate and appealed for a review. The court, however, dismissed the appeal and upheld the sentence.
Family members and relatives said the financial penalty of 500,000 yuan ($74,480) has put a heavy burden on the family.
Religions and religious publications face strict surveillance and censorship in communist and officially atheist China.
There have been many cases of abuses, arrests and punishment for Christians engaged in media and publishing, both in print and digital format.
In 2019, another Chinese court banned books and handed a nine-year jail term to pastor Wang Yi, a popular leader of the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu
In January, Linhai City Court in Taizhou of Zhejiang province upheld a seven-year sentence on Chen Yu, a Christian and head of Wheat Bookstore in Taizhou.
In 2019, another Chinese court banned books and handed a nine-year jail term to pastor Wang Yi, a popular leader of the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu.
Last year a court in southwest China sentenced four Christian men for selling electronic devices that play Bible verses.
In May that year, authorities launched a drive to remove Bible apps and accounts of Christians on popular social media site WeChat.
US-based Open Doors ranks China 17th among 50 countries where Christians face severe forms of persecution.
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