Christian Businessman Arrested in China for Smuggling Bibles

Accused of Aiding an «Evil Cult»

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BEIJING, JAN. 6, 2002 ( A Hong Kong businessman was accused of aiding an «evil cult» after he tried to send a Chinese group tens of thousands of Bibles purchased by American faithful, a newspaper reported.

Li Guangqiang, 38, was indicted last month on charges of «using a cult to undermine enforcement of the law,» the Washington Post reported today.

He is expected to go on trial next week in the southeastern city of Fuqing, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

Last week, two leaders of an underground Protestant church in central China´s Hubei province were sentenced to death under the same anti-cult law, which the governing Communist Party adopted in 1999 to justify its campaign against Falun Gong.

The law does not provide a precise definition of a cult, and human rights groups say the government is using it to harass religious organizations that refuse to worship in state-run churches, including at least 16 Christian groups.

Li is believed to be the first Hong Kong resident prosecuted under the law. Friends described him as a devout Christian who spent several years studying theology in Taiwan. He is a partner in a business that buys candles in China and sells them overseas, they said.

According to the indictment, Li shipped a truckload of about 17,000 Bibles to the underground church in Fuqing in April and was trying to transport another 16,000 Bibles in May when police arrested him and seized the shipment.

The indictment also charges two leaders of the church that requested the Bibles, Yu Zhudi and Lin Xifu, both 42, and describes them as members of the Shouters, which has been active in China since the 1920s and has been targeted by the government for decades.

The group, which says it has 500,000 members, espouses a literal interpretation of the Bible, and its members are known for their evangelical practice of shouting «Jesus is Lord!» in unison. They have been singled out for persecution in part because of their ties to overseas Christian groups, according to human rights groups.

Friends said Li is a member of the group´s foreign branch known as the Local Church, and was asked by a church leader from Anaheim, California, to deliver the Bibles to Fuqing about a year ago.

«He knew this job was risky and dangerous,» said one close friend and fellow Church member in Hong Kong, who asked not to be identified because he travels often to China. «He did it for the church, for his faith, and to help the Christians in China. He knew there was a high need for these Bibles there.»

The Bibles are new Chinese-language translations that do not differ significantly in content from those approved by Beijing, but they have been banned because of their affiliation with the Shouters, church members said.

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