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Beijing House Church Leader Withdraws Appeal for Three Year Sentence

A prominent house church leader, sentenced to three years in prison, was seeking an appeal until recently when he withdrew his request, a Texas-based Christian rights group said on Wednesday.
( [email protected] ) Nov 17, 2005 01:28 PM EST

A prominent house church leader, sentenced to three years in prison, was seeking an appeal until recently when he withdrew his request, a Texas-based Christian rights group said on Wednesday.

Cai Zhuohua was sentenced by the Beijing People's Intermediate Court, along with his wife Xiao Yunfei, her brother, Xiao Gaowen, and his wife Hu Jinyun, for running an "illegal business" that printed Bibles and Christian literature.

The China Aid Association learned that Cai withdrew the appeal before the court deadline "under intensive pressure."

According to the statement made on Nov. 16, CAA's government sources said that one court clerk from Haidian District People's Court met with Cai after he was sentenced, and hinted that his sentence would increase if he decided to file for an appeal.

President of CAA Bob Fu disapproved of this "heavy pressure," and said on Wed., "We strongly urge the Chinese higher authority to grant the due process guaranteed by Chinese own laws for every citizen in China."

The Chinese government only allows Christians to worship in state-sanctioned churches, and the printing of Bibles and religious publications needs to be approved by the State Bureau of Religious Affairs. Bibles cannot be openly bought or sold at bookshops, therefore there is a limited amount to be distributed.

Around Cai's first hearing in July, Hong Kong's Beijing-funded Ta Kung Pao quoted Ye Xiaowen, the director of the State Bureau of Religious Affairs in an interview as saying, Cai illegally printed 40 million copies, with Ye further accusing Cai as having already sold two million copies.

Cai's attorney, Zhang Xingshui acknowledged his client did publish Bibles and other Christian literature without the government's permission, but denied the accusation that he sold the material, but rather he distributed it for free.

Cai's case has garnered the support of Christian groups in the U.S., and has been cited as an example for President Bush to bring to President Hu Jintao in their meeting over U.S.-China relations. Christian organizations, the USCIRF and the State Department are urging Bush to bring religious freedom to the top of his agenda in Beijing on Nov. 19-21.