Wang Honglan and other Inner Mongolia believer risk 15 years in jail for selling Bibles that were regularly printed by a government-authorized publisher.
by Fang Yongrui
Selling Bibles illegally printed without the government’s authorization is a crime in China. But what about Bibles printed legally by an authorized publisher connected with the government-controlled Three-Self Church? Presumably, they can be sold without problems.
But this is not the case if you belong to an unauthorized house church. The authorities now claim that a “legal” Bible can still be “illegally” sold if those who sell it belong to a non-authorized religious organization.
This is what Wang Honglan (王洪兰) and other believers in the prefecture-level city of Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, discovered when they were arrested in April 2021 and charged with operating an “illegal business.” A legal battle followed when the case was scheduled for trial for January 17, 2022, at the People’s Court of Huimin District, one of the four districts of Hohhot, and the lawyers who had been just appointed claimed they were not granted enough time to study the case.
According to a prayer request circulated on March 28 among house churches, the trial is now scheduled for late April and may last for three weeks. The prosecutor is seeking a 15-year jail term for Wang and lesser terms for the other defendants.
Wang is accused of having been the mastermind of an “illegal” business that sold Bibles for some 40 million yuan ($145,000). The defendants claim that all the Bibles had been printed with authorization in Nanjing, and they did not make any profit. Theirs was not even a “business,” they say. They collected offers from other believers and used them to buy Bibles and give them to Christians who could hardly afford to pay for them.
Nonetheless, they are now at risk of spending long years in jail—for “illegally” selling “legal” Bibles.