The Bible is recognized as one of the books with the most significant impact on the world. In China, that impact means a run-in with authorities.
Having even a photocopy of the Bible is a capital offense in China, where believers of all stripes are consistently persecuted, harassed, surveilled and, sometimes, tortured.
So it’s not surprising, though no less amazing, that Christians can serve hard prison time for having photocopies of words from the Holy Book. That’s the lesson Li Liang (pseudonym), a leader with the Local Church in central Anhui Province, learned after he was sentenced to five years in prison for photocopying the Bible. He has since been released, though he hasn’t technically regained his freedom, as he’s constantly subjected to police surveillance and intimidation.
At the time of his release, the police threatened him, saying if he continued to believe in God, he would be sentenced to at least ten years in prison, and his family members would also be implicated, since Chinese authorities believe in collective punishment, where the “sins” of one family member are visited upon the others.
According to a source, when Li Liang was arrested in 2012, the police searched his home and found two printers, a large quantity of printer paper, as well as Bible chapters of which he had made copies and was preparing to distribute to believers. Because of this “evidence,” the police considered Li Liang to be “the head of a counter-revolutionary organization” and took him into custody, where he was tortured for information about the source of the materials and other church news, for four months – before he was sentenced.
During the Cultural Revolution, “counter-revolution” was considered a crime, and was widely used by the Chinese authorities, with most of the targets being religious persons and dissidents. The 1997 revision of The Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China removed this crime and replaced it with “subversion of state power” – i.e., rebellion.
An anonymous believer in Li Liang’s church said the reason that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) charges Christians with the crime of “counter-revolution” is to establish the absolute authority of the Communist Party.
And as the authorities’ religious persecution continues to intensify, people in China can be persecuted merely for possessing a single religious book, while storing religious books is even more dangerous.
Li Wenqiang, a pseudonym, is a Christian with the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Shenzhen city, in southern Guangdong Province. Two years ago, the library at his church was raided by officials from the Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television and the city’s Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs and other departments. More than 200,000 Bibles and religious books were seized. Li and another Christian responsible for managing the books were sentenced to three years in prison (with five years’ probation) for “illegal business operations.”
According to sources, the two are still being monitored by the authorities and have been restricted from leaving Shenzhen for five years. If they violate this provision, their prison term will be calculated anew.
Those who believe in God will face growing persecution and suffering in the future, one believer said. Everyone must be prepared: Without faith, it will be difficult to carry on.
Reported by Lu An / Bitter Winter