>Religion in China

>The Associated Press has issued a new release reporting that Pastor Cai Zhuohua has been released from prison:

BEIJING (AP) — A leader of China’s underground Protestant church has been released from prison after serving a three-year sentence for distributing Bibles and other religious literature without a business license, an overseas monitoring group said Sunday.

Pastor Cai Zhuohua returned to his Beijing home on Sept. 10 in good physical and mental condition, the China Aid Association said in a statement.

The association, based in Midland, Texas, said Cai had been told not to speak about his prison experience and to report to a local police station once a month.

China’s sole legal government-controlled church maintains a monopoly on the printing and distribution of religious literature and other church materials.

Cai had been sentenced for “illegal business practices” after police searched a warehouse he managed and found more than 200,000 pieces of Christian literature, including Bibles. His lawyers said he gave away the religious materials for free and denied he was running a business.

Cai had been detained about 14 months before he was convicted in November 2005. His pretrial detention appeared to have been counted toward his sentence.

The association said Cai had been deprived of religious reading material in prison, where he had been forced to work for 10 to 12 hours each day.

China’s officially atheistic Communist government denies persecuting religious believers, but says all religious groups must follow the law and place love of nation above all else.

The government only allows worship in churches run by state-monitored religious associations, although millions of Christians risk harassment or worse by gathering in independent church groups, often run out of private homes.

The Chinese government is preparing for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beinjing, which begin on August 8, 2008. The Chinese government is using the Olympics as one way to show the world a modern China, a China that desires to be a world leader in the twenty-first century.

In preparation for the invasion of foreigners, the Chinese government is upgrading Beijing’s appearance by investing billions of dollars to improve the city’s facilities and by cracking down on religious elements the government fears will present a view that is contrary to the central government’s rigid agenda.

According to a State Department report issued last week, the Chinese government has recently expelled more than one hundred foreign missionaries from China.

The same report said that police and public security forces are attending house church meetings and monitoring the activities of church leaders. The Chinese government has also placed restrictions on who can travel. These restrictions may indicate that the Chinese government does not want anyone, including Christians, disrupting the Olympics.

According to the State Department’s 2007 Report on International Religious Freedom, the Chinese government has restricted house church leaders from having contact with foreigners and asked them about plans to disrupt the Olympics.

Christians all over the world must continue praying for the persecuted believers in Chrina.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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