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22 October 2020

Fine and seven-year prison sentence for online Christian bookseller in China

In further evidence of authorities clamping down on Christian book activity in China, an online Christian bookseller has been fined and given a seven-year prison sentence for activity deemed ‘illegal business operation’.

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A Christian bookseller in China has been given a seven-year prison sentence and fined 200,000 Yuan (almost £23,000) for selling online Christian literature bought overseas.

Zhang Xiaomai was arrested in September last year for running “Xiaomai Bookstore” online and selling Christian books, deemed by the authorities as ‘illegal business operation’. The authorities – who stated that the bookstore had sold more than 20,000 books to over 10,000 people, and published 771 different titles abroad – intend to destroy the 12,864 books they seized.

Clamping down, tracking down

The confiscation and sentence symptomises the tightening of control on Christian books by the Chinese authorities.

"This is not the first case of a religious book seller being given a jail sentence. However, seven years and a hefty fine is rare" Open Doors source

“This is not the first case of a religious book seller being given a jail sentence. However, seven years and a hefty fine is rare,” a source told Open Doors. “The online sale of Christian books has been curtailed by the Chinese government for some time. But the Chinese people would find ways to make it available on some online platforms.”

The source adds, “One of the problems with importing books, however, is that they do not have a China-issued ISBN identification number. They are therefore illegal and targeted by the authorities.”

Police officers reportedly checked shipping receipts and got national security guards to track down recipients of sold books to gather evidence for the case.

Censorship of Christian films

Bookselling is not the only Christian activity facing increasing censorship. According to China Christian Daily, Renrenjiang, a popular platform which streams lectures on a broad variety of different topics, took down a programme by a Christian outlet about a pastor and a community of deaf Christians in northern China. Despite the outlet being allowed to show content for the last two months, they have now been told that ‘a programme about religion was against their policy’.

This is not an isolated event. China Christian Daily adds that many videos of sermons have been taken down from different online platforms in the last two years. 

There are around 97.2 million Christians in China. Given the number of people living in China (some 1.4 billion), this equates to around 7 per cent of the total population. Churches in China are increasingly experiencing pressure at the hands of the Chinese state. Last year, over 5,500 churches were destroyed, closed down or confiscated. There is also increased surveillance, making it increasingly difficult for churches to meet underground.

Please pray

Heavenly Father, You know all things and can do the impossible, and we ask that the decision to sentence and fine Zhang Xiaomai will be overturned. Strengthen, protect and encourage our brother. Grant wisdom to leaders as they navigate surveillance and restrictions, and cause a softening of attitudes and approach from the Chinese authorities towards Christians. Amen.

Invite your MP

China is number 23 on the 2020 World Watch List. In the last two years, it has risen 20 places, reflecting increased persecution for Christians. Invite your MP to save the date for the World Watch List launch on the 13 January 2021 where they can find out more about how to help persecuted Christians around the world.

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