Chinese Christian Leader Released After Three-Year Imprisonment

( [email protected] ) Sep 15, 2007 04:15 AM EDT

Chinese house church pastor, Cai Zhuohua, was released on Monday after serving a three-year prison term for printing Bibles and religious materials.

The prominent religious leader is reportedly in good health though government officials told him to be silent about his ordeal, says China Aid Association, which often reports about persecution of Christians in China.

He is expected to report to the Public Security Bureau office every month, CAA said in a press release Friday.

The Texas-based organization added that Cai spent time in prison making soccer balls 10 to 12 hours a day for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Beijing-based pastor was nabbed in Sept. 2004 by state security officers, who confiscated more than 200,000 copies of Christian literature including bibles printed privately from a storage space.

His wife was later handed a two-year prison sentence, while his brother was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Cai’s trial and subsequent three-year prison sentence in a Chinese court the following year provoked international outcry from human rights and religious freedom groups.

Human Rights Watch endorsed an open letter of protest to China’s President Hu Jintao in 2005.

CAA reported, the same year, that a member of its staff met in the oval office with U.S. president George W. Bush to discuss about Cai’s ordeal.

In May 2006, the United States Commission on International Human Rights listed China on its list of Countries of Particular Concern in a report which included Cai’s case amongst that of many others.

Beijing currently only allows Christians to worship at state-owned churches, and strictly monitors the printing and distribution of biblical materials.

While the state claims that it has printed sufficient bibles, overseas evangelical groups often point out that access to such religious materials remains difficult in China – where distribution centers are limited to a handful of authorized bookstores and state-owned churches.

Printing and distributing bibles privately without government permission is considered an “illegal business operation,” as stipulated in China’s current Criminal Law.

Last week, a house church leader Zhou Heng was arrested in the southwest autonomous region of Xinjiang, after receiving 3 tons of bibles printed from another city.

Bob Fu, CAA president, insisted that the fight for Cai’s human rights is not over.

"Since the pastor has already served an unjustified three years sentence, to continue to restrict his freedom of movement is a violation of Chinese own law," said Fu, giving brief mention that Cai will continue to be monitored.

"We urge the international community to continue to press the worsening situation on religious freedom and human rights in China."