Bible smuggler released after three years in prison

( [email protected] ) Mar 10, 2004 02:27 PM EST

Yu Zhudi, a Protestant activist imprisoned on charges of secretly distributing copies of Bibles in southeast China, has been released after three years. He was freed on March 7 in Baisha, near Fuquing (Fujian).

“On the surface I am now free, but it’s not that simple. I will likely be followed and my phone may be tapped,” said Yu, a member of an outlawed evangelical organization called the “Shouters”. Yu was arrested in May 2001 along with two other members of the group, Lin Xifu and Li Guangquiang after being accused of smuggling 16,000 Bibles from Shenzhen into Fuqing.

“I hope the authorities will realize we are practicing religion legally. I hope they will let Christian groups like ours register as legal organizations. If my jail term can achieve this, it would be worthwhile.”

The “Shouters” are one of the fastest growing religious organizations in the country. It is estimated that the organization now totals 500,000 members who are urged to “shout” their devotion to Christianity.

Concerning his prison term, Yu said, “The first three months were very terrifying.” He and other prisoners made rattan baskets for 16 hours each day, and kept silent for fear of being punished. “My hands were cut, my whole body was exhausted and my head ached. There was no time to sleep,” he said. His situation got worse when he was assigned to keep watch at night outside a prison cellblock. Due to lack of rest and poor food, Yu’s health became seriously compromised. “When I was doing hard labor, we had only one small bucket of water to drink every day, and we ate rice,” he said. “On good weeks, we had vegetable soup, but they used bad ingredients. We never had any fish or meat.”

Following his release, Yu and his family have received several visits from Christian friends and relatives. Li Guangqiang and Lin Xifu were convicted to two and three-year prison terms, respectively. However, both were released in 2002 on medical parole thanks to pressure put on by American groups. In addition to their prison sentences, the three “Shouters” were fined 150,000 yuan (around $18,000) each.

[Source: AsiaNews/SCMP]