China Extends Christian's Detention

Authorities in Beijing have extended the detention of Christian publisher Shi Weihan by a further two months while the police gather evidence against him, his wife says. Shi has been detained without charge since March.

2008-06-24
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ShiWeihan250.jpg
Mr. Shi Weihan with his family members.
Photo courtesy chinaaid.org
HONG KONG--The wife of a Christian publisher who has been held by authorities in Beijing without charge since March says her husband’s detention has now been extended for a further two months to give the police time to collect evidence against him.

In her first interview since her husband's detention three months ago, Zhang Jing, said her husband Shi Weihan had now been allowed to meet his lawyer.

"The latest development is that the lawyer met my husband on Monday. This is because his detention has been extended by two more months, so he can meet the lawyer," Zhang said.

"The reason for the extension is because the police are saying that the case is too complicated, citing difficulties in collecting evidence," she added. "Yesterday, police warned me not to talk to media, and not to contact foreigners."

But she said: "We need more attention… Similar things will happen again before the Olympics."

"More attention will benefit our beliefs as well our congregation, as our bank account has been frozen."

"The police didn’t come to stop our gathering as a religious group, but many brothers and sisters don’t dare to come due to the disturbances caused by the authorities," Zhang said.

Meetings on hold

The unofficial house church congregation has put its normal meetings on hold since June 1, Zhang said. "Other church groups we are familiar with were harassed, too. Police went to those groups and told them to stop gathering."

But she said the church group's bookstore was still running normally, as was the couple's company.

"But the authorities monitor all telephone and Internet," she added.

Police raided Shi and Zhang's Beijing home on Nov. 28, 2007, detaining the couple for suspected involvement in illegal publishing and seizing books related to Christianity. Zhang was subsequently released after being interrogated.

On Jan. 4, Shi was released on bail along with scores of other people implicated in the case. He was detained again in March.

'Treated well'

Shi’s lawyer Zhou Min said Shi was "being treated well" in custody. But he added: "It’s not convenient now for me to talk to you about all the details of his case."

Shi’s case has drawn international attention, months ahead of the Beijing Olympics and in the wake of China’s crackdown on protests in Tibet. Shi and Zhang’s young daughter was born in the United States and is a U.S. citizen, so Washington is also watching closely.

Officially, China is an atheist country and tightly controls religious observances. But last year the ruling Communist Party made a concession to the country’s rapidly growing cohort of Christians by saying that “religious believers should be mobilized to make a positive contribution to society.”

Original reporting by Xin Yu for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translation by Chen Ping. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Written for the Web in English by Sarah Jackson-Han. Edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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