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Twelve Chinese Adventists Sentenced to Prison —

Written by: Pam Dietrich

Published: May 29, 2019

In this week’s news round-up, twelve Chinese Adventists are sentenced to prison, GC General Counsel discusses religious freedom case with NPR, an Adventist church in Sydney is hit with theft and arson, a new Christian documentary highlights Adventism, and the Lake Union Conference issues a statement regarding an Adventist woman murdered in Chicago. Twelve Chinese Adventists Sentenced to Prison. In late January, the People’s Court of Gong’an county, under the jurisdiction of Jingzhou city in central China’s Hubei Province, held a hearing for 12 arrested members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Pastor Zhu Zhongcai and

11 church co-workers were accused of “illegal business operations” for printing sermons and other faith-related materials — a collection of sermons, the Book of Revelation, and the Book of Daniel — and distributing them to the congregation. Pastor Zhu was sentenced to five years, Elder Li Aihui to four, and nine co-workers from one to three and a half years in prison; one was exempted from criminal punishment. Even though the Seventh-day Adventist Church joined the government-approved Three-Self Patriotic Movement in the 1950s, only a few of its churches and meeting venues in Hubei have religious activity venue registration certificates. Also, the Two Chinese Christian Councils do not approve the official publication of the church’s materials or books. Without the government-issued ISBNs, the church could only release self-made publications for members of the congregation. And this is precisely what the pastor and the coworkers had done.

Pastor Zhu’s defense lawyer said that “illegal business operations” would mean that the publication and distribution of religious materials had been done in pursuit of illegal gains or they had harmed social order and disrupted the market. But they did nothing of the kind: the Collection of Sermons and other publications consist of church materials distributed within the church. Moreover, only small amounts of money were collected to cover printing and transportation expenses without any intent to seek illegal gains.

A church co-worker who requested anonymity told Bitter Winter that the court ruling is unjust for many reasons. All of the books are not-for-sale, they are not violating any copyright laws, and do not infringe on others’ rights. The believer added that it was only after repeated requests from members of the congregation that Pastor Zhu finally printed a collection of his sermons. According to the co-worker, this was not the first time Pastor Zhu was sentenced to prison. In July 2011, People’s Court of Shahekou district in Dalian city in northeast China’s Liaoning Province sentenced him to nine years charged with “illegal business operations” for printing the Bible. He served his sentence at Wafangdian Prison in Dalian. His sentence was later commuted, and he was released on September 3, 2017. The crackdown on religious materials in China is intensifying as part of the CCP’s ongoing operation to “eradicate pornography and illegal publications.” From Bitter Winter, “Five Years in Prison for Religious Materials .

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