China sentences Bibe-publishing pastor

I feel a whole lot safer now that Protestant pastor Cai Zhuohua is in a Beijing prison, where he won’t be able to repeat his harmony-destroying, stability-threatening crime – publishing Bibles.

A prominent pastor in Beijing’s underground Protestant church was sentenced to three years in prison Tuesday for illegally printing and distributing Bibles and other religious books, in a case that has attracted attention from Christian groups in the United States and elsewhere.

The Beijing People’s Intermediate Court handed down the sentence immediately after convicting Cai Zhuohua, 34, of the crime of conducting “illegal business practices,” said his attorney, Zhang Xingshui. Two co-defendants were also convicted and sentenced to prison, he said.

The sentencing comes less than two weeks before President Bush is scheduled to visit China and underscores a sense among U.S. diplomats and human rights activists that the Chinese government has decided not to release a political prisoner as a symbolic gesture before the visit as it has done in advance of other visits by U.S. presidents….

Cai’s wife, Xiao Yunfei, and her brother, Xiao Gaowen, were also convicted in the case and received two-year and 18-month prison sentences, respectively. A fourth defendant, Cai’s sister-in-law, Hu Jinyun, was convicted of “concealing stolen goods,” a reference to funds earned through the alleged sale of the Bibles, but was spared punishment because she cooperated with police, lawyers said.

The four defendants were led handcuffed into the courtroom and stood silently as a judge announced their sentences, Zhang said. He said none of them were permitted to address the court during the 20-minute hearing, and he was unable to speak to Cai before police took him away.

The government is claiming this has absolutely nothing to do with religion; it’s only about “illegal business practices,” because Cai was profitting illegally by selling the Bibles. Sorry, but I don’t believe a word of it. If they are so concerned about illegal business practices, there are far more egregious examples I can point to on just about any block in Beijing. Do you really think Cai was printing and distributing Bibles to get rich?

The Discussion: 9 Comments

If that weren’t enough, the government also suspended their lawyer from practicing law for 1 year.

November 8, 2005 @ 8:45 pm | Comment

Illegal business practices? So, all the sellers of fake Rolexes, pirated DVDs and underage hookers can expect lengthy prison sentences too?

November 9, 2005 @ 12:06 am | Comment

Illegal business practices? So, all the sellers of fake Rolexes, pirated DVDs and underage hookers can expect lengthy prison sentences too?

Not unless they print Bibles, apparently……

The irony is that belief in Christianity is probably higher in China than it is in HKK, Taiwan, Singapore, or Macao, where people have choices. If the Chinese really want to destroy Christianity, all they have to do is give everyone choice. As the other Asian cultures all show, Christianity can’t hold a candle to any of the local products (exception: Christianity in Korea and Mormonism in the Philippines). In a free market Christianity can’t compete; that is why major Christian organizations, such as the Catholic Church, typically ally themselves with authoritarian governments. By restricting social choice, authoritarian governments magnify the attractiveness of Christianity. Further, by making alliances with authoritarian governments, Christian sects can obtain exclusive concessions, the way Catholicism became the State religion of Franco’s Spain and Mussolini’s Italy, and the way Orthodoxy is the de facto State religion of Russia. Such concessions help them cement their power over society. It is noteworthy that Poland abandoned Catholicism when it became free, and that when Taiwan became a functioning democracy, the Vatican began to mull abandoning Taiwan.

What the Communists are really doing is benefiting the spread of Christianity by (1) giving it the cachet of being anti-government (2) enforcing doctrinal and organizational unity (Christian organizations unite under outside threat; left alone, they cheerfully knife each other in the back) (3) creating martyrs who will be used to make more converts (4) provoking more donations and interest from abroad to combat atheist Communism (5) helpfully providing publicity to Christianity that makes people curious about it, leading to more conversions (there’s no such thing as “bad’ publicity as any press agent can tell you….it’s not for nothing that Christian organizations brag that Christianity is growing fastest in China.

There’s just no angle from which stamping out Bible publications is a good idea.

Michael

November 9, 2005 @ 6:38 am | Comment

Michael Turton:

Hm, I agree with a LOT of what you say, but I disagree on a few points:

1. You say, a bit too categorically, that “Christianity cannot compete in a free market.” Well, two problems with that. First of all, religion is NOT a “product” like other material consumer “products”.
Second, there are many varieties of Christianity, and SOME kinds of Christianity have “competed” very well indeed, against other creeds. But I will not bother to list them, except to mention, inter alia, how the first Christians (circa AD 50 to 70) competed very well indeed with Judaism in the – at that time – VERY open and cosmopolitan milieu of Roman Judeah. (And it was very open to new ideas largely because of its considerable Hellenisation, but that’s another long story.)

2. You overstated how the Catholic Church succeeded by “allying itself with authoritarian governments.”
Just one powerful example – like a Black Swan, nullifying the premise that all Swans are White – consider Ireland. Catholicism in Ireland survived, and resisted, AGAINST the Protestant British government (which was not terribly authoritarian anyway) – at any rate, the endurance of Irish Catholicism has had NOTHING to do with ANY “authoritarian government.”
Also, Poland. You said Poland “abandoned Catholicism.” What the HELL are you talking about?
Poland did NOT “abandon Catholicism when it became free” – if you believe this (and God only knows where you got this idea from) then you know nothing about Poland. Poland became free MOSTLY as a consequence of Pope John Paul’s visit to Poland during Communist times. And in the 20-some years since then, I assure you, MOST Poles have NOT abandoned Catholicism. If anything, Catholicism has grown in Poland since the 1980s.

My good man, you sound very intelligent, but your anti-Catholicism here, reads a bit like a Jack Chick tract.

However, I agree with your other, more essential argument, than banning Bibles in China will just backfire and strengthen Christianity in China. The Chinese government today, seems to be doing what the Roman government did in the second the third centuries – reinforcing Christianity by giving it an especial status as a religion of martyrs, AND not just a silly little cult, but a religion with especially strong, especially persusaive attraction to the most intelligent people and the most heroic souls. (And Christianity has always had good reasons to attract such people, because it IS a very intelligent, and very heroic, and very truthful religion. Also, Christianity inherited those beautiful qualities from the Jews – and then Christianity offered those qualities to all the World, and that was an improvement over the ethnically exclusive, yet sublime, wisdom of the Jews.)
So, I agree with you on THAT point, that China’s banning the Bible will just backfire.

But please, my good man, put away the Jack Chick tracts about the Catholic Church being the Great Satan allied with Worldly Powers. You’re obviously intelligent, so, please be more sensible than that. ๐Ÿ™‚
(PS, I enjoy Jack Chick’s radically anti-Catholic “Christian” tracts, as perverse entertainment, kind of like watching Beavis and Butthead……..)

November 9, 2005 @ 8:10 am | Comment

Jeez Ivan there are so many bad examples that you also could have thrown in at point 2 and you didn’t even address the original examples. It is a nice fluff piece about Ireland but it is still possible there are many more white swans than black.

Also with regard to poland, I doubt the good Pope would have done SFA about the commies in poland if the commies were good catholics.

But let’s leave history for a while since you will wipe the floor with my childish understanding, and look at one of the late Pope’s favorite topics; Condoms for the Africans. What the f**k man, the spread of HIV in Africa should be tackled through fidelity and abstinence? Is this not an authoritarian stance? It’s true, the church is not always aligned with authoritarian governments. They *are* the freaken authoritarians.
I know this is getting offtopic, but what is so intelligent and truthful about Christianity?

It is always the same story for any new chinese christians I see converted here in Australia. Lonely person can’t speak english, gets invited to church and feels god and bullshit bullshit bullshit they are a christian soldier. Christainity cannot compete in a free market, it is boring, outdated and dogmatic. If there are favourable factors such as banning bibles which may make it seem interesting, it might last a bit longer.

November 9, 2005 @ 4:05 pm | Comment

Ivan, I think you need to catch up on Poland a bit. See this BBC news article on Poland’s changing church. The idea that Catholicism “has grown” since the glory days of anti-Communism is a bit naive.

And please do not accuse me of being a “jack Chick” type. Go see my Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. On this topic I am extremely well informed. Take this comment, for example:

But I will not bother to list them, except to mention, inter alia, how the first Christians (circa AD 50 to 70) competed very well indeed with Judaism in the – at that time – VERY open and cosmopolitan milieu of Roman Judeah.

Of course this is rank nonsense. Christianity did not “compete with” Judaism; it was considered a variant of Judaism by many and Christians attended Jewish synagogues for almost a century after the time you name. Christian conversions took place largely among Hellenized Jews in the diaspora; in the Holy Land its effectiveness was almost non-existent. Christianity was unable to compete with Judaism, and the allure of the pagan religions remained until they were stamped out by later Christians.

Michael

November 9, 2005 @ 4:28 pm | Comment

Ivan & Michael,
I think there are some very major points that you are both missing here.

1. Bibles are NOT banned in China.
In 2004 over three million Bibles were distributed legally in China. These Bibles were produced by a joint venture between the Amity Foundation (Chinese Christian NGO) and the United Bible Societies. Since 1979 over 35 million Chinese Bibles have been distributed by this partnership in mainland China.

2. This case is about an underground Protestant pastor, so I think discussions about Pope John Paul II and the Catholic church in Poland, while interesting, are a little off-track.

3. The Amity Foundation and the UBS work with the legal Protestant church in China, which is known as the TSPM (Three Self Patriotic Movement) and CCC (China Christian Council). This church, which is a recognised member of the World Council of Churches, has a large and growing membership of somewhere between 15 and 75 million Christians (all growth is conducted by local, ie, Chinese-to-Chinese, evangelism). However it has had to accept supervision of its activities by the government (Religious Affairs Bureau) in order to be considered legal in China. Some Chinese Christians consider this link between church and state to be unacceptable, and thus are forced to join โ€œundergroundโ€ or illegal churches. In some areas the Religious Affairs Bureau will refuse to register churches that would otherwise be considered members of the TSPM, forcing them to go โ€œundergroundโ€. Finally, some Christian sects, such as the Seventh-Day Adventists, whose beliefs differ from those of the TSPM are forced to operate โ€œundergroundโ€.

4. The thing that surprises me most about this case is the fact that underground pastors do not normally print and distribute their own Bibles. They go to their local TSPM church and buy them there to distribute to their congregations. (When I lived in Jiangxi I would occasionally receive visits from an underground pastor on his way to pick up more Bible supplies from our local church.) I can understand that Pastor Cai might need to print his own teaching materials pertaining to whichever underground denomination or sect he belonged to, but I find the fact that he was accused of printing Bibles to be highly suspicious.

5. The fact that Christianity has survived for 2000 years and become one of the great evangelical world religions does suggest that it competes very well in any market, free or otherwise. It is a highly adaptive religion (as is Buddhism) with a message that attracts people of many different cultural backgrounds. (The fact that Ireland chose to stay Catholic, despite the English governmentโ€™s attempts to impose Protestantism, and the fact that Scotland chose to become Protestant, despite Mary Queen of Scotโ€™s attempts to keep it Catholic, merely proves that the Celts are a very contrary race, and you shouldnโ€™t try messing with them IMO.)

6. At least both of you agree that Christianity flourishes very well under persecution. The vast majority of Ecclesiastical historians will agree with Ivan that the behaviour of the early Christians under the persecutions of the Roman emperors from Nero to Diocletian greatly increased the attractiveness of Christianity, so that once it was accepted by Constantine (who actually seems to have been pretty confused about the specific details of Christian doctrine) it quickly spread and established itself around the Roman Empire.

Now, back to China:
Christianity is already spreading far and wide in China. The story that I have heard time and time again from Chinese Christians is that this spread was sparked by the extreme persecutions they suffered during the Cultural Revolution.

November 10, 2005 @ 8:18 am | Comment

Oh, come on. Our government is too soft on those trouble makers. This government failed our hope of eradicating Christianity and other religions from our soil. The history has proven that Christians alwasys side with foreign invaders and betray our country and the atheist majority, and we still allow them to build churchs here? That is ridiculous. We need a democratic government to materialize the will of most Chinese people which is to get ride of those trouble makers.

December 19, 2005 @ 6:49 pm | Comment

Oh, come on. Our government is too soft on those trouble makers. This government failed our hope of eradicating Christianity and other religions from our soil. The history has proven that Christians alwasys side with foreign invaders and betray our country and the atheist majority, and we still allow them to build churchs here? That is ridiculous. We need a democratic government to materialize the will of most Chinese people which is to get ride of those trouble makers.

December 19, 2005 @ 6:49 pm | Comment

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