Four Christians were arrested for selling audio Bibles this year as part of a government campaign to “eradicate pornography and illegal publications,” according to two watchdog groups.
The four Christians – Fu Xuanjuan, Deng Tianyong, Han Li, and Feng Qunhao – worked at a company, Life Tree Culture Communication Co., Ltd., that was founded in 2011 in the province of Guangdong and sold audio Bible players, according to Bitter Winter, which monitors religious liberty violations in China. The electronic units have the Bible pre-loaded on them.
They were arrested July 2 on charges of “illegal business operations” and have another court hearing Dec. 9, according to International Christian Concern (ICC).
Chinese police and government officials have targeted audio Bible players as part of a nationwide campaign to “eradicate pornography and illegal publications,” Bitter Winter said.
“As per a document issued in 2018 by the government of Changwu county in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, Bible players containing content not approved by the state are also targets of investigations,” Bitter Winter reported.
Fu, the company’s general manager and executive director, could face five years in prison. Deng, the supervisor, and Feng, the technician, face up to three years in prison, according to ICC. Han, the accountant, faces up to 18 months.
“While it is a legally established company that makes audio bible players, in China, if the government wants to criminalise you, it does not need a reason,” ICC said. “The hefty sentences against these Christians are used to scare other Christians so they would not dare to sell Bibles without going through state-sanctioned churches.”
The arrest of the four Christians is not an isolated case, Bitter Winter said.
Another Christian in Guangdong said police investigated him because he had bought an audio Bible player online.
“The police found the believer’s personal information on the company’s sales list,” Bitter Winter reported. “They searched his home and questioned him repeatedly on the player’s whereabouts.”
Elsewhere, a deacon in the province of Zhejiang was investigated for buying multiple audio Bible players and was told not to distribute them to Christians again.