Thursday, 11 June 2009


A Chinese bookstore owner who was taken into custody and accused of printing Bibles to give to local house church congregations has been sentenced to three years in prison and fined nearly $22,000, according to a report from Compass Direct.
The report said a Beijing court today delivered the guilty verdict in the trial of Shi Weihan on allegations he ran an "illegal business operation."
WND has reported on the case since the businessman's original arrest, including when a report came out last year that even his friends hardly recognized him because of the deterioration of his health while in jail awaiting court proceedings.
WND first reported when the house church leader became one of the Christians in China who simply "disappeared" in 2007.
He later was tracked to prison, and although in January of 2008 he was cleared of allegations made against him, he was taken into custody again in March and has been held there since.
Officials with China Aid Association said then his life was at risk.
"According to personal acquaintances who have visited Mr. Shi, his health has degenerated to the point that he is hardly recognizable to his closest friends," China Aid said at the time.
Now, Compass Direct reports that the bookstore operated legally and sold only books for which he held government permission. But the conviction said he printed Bibles and other literature to give to churches.
Ray Sharpe, a friend of the bookstore owner, told Compass Direct a written judgment is expected within about two weeks to allow an appeal to be filed.
The report said friends and business acquaintances of Shi described him as a model citizen of China. He was known, the report said, for his work among the poor in his nation.
His wife, Zhang Jing, and their two daughters, have been under surveillance for much of his time in jail, the report said.
Shi owns a bookstore near where last year's Olympics complex was built in Beijing.
Sharpe told WND at the time of Shi's first arrest that Shi is a businessman who also works as a travel agent.
In the runup to the Olympics, WND reported on a "blacklist" of people and groups of people China was targeting specifically because of the games last August. Those targeted included religious leaders.
The case involving Shi has gotten considerable attention at least partly because he is the father of a U.S. citizen.
Grace Shi, 9, was born during the family's visit to the U.S. in 2000.