(Linhai, Zhejiang Province) A Christian bookstore owner who was sent to prison for selling books by foreign Christians and by Early Rain Church Pastor Wang Yi has had his appeal hearing postponed indefinitely. Authorities blamed the postponement of the hearing of Zhang Xiaomai, the owner of Xiaomai Bookstore in Linhai, Zhejiang Province, on Coronavirus concerns.
No new date has been given for the appeal, according to Zhang’s mother, who received notice of the delay from Zhang’s attorneys. Zhang was arrested on September 11, 2019 and convicted on September 28, 2020 on charges of selling illegal religious overseas publications online. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and given a fine of 200,000 CNY (approximately 37 million KRW). Zhang immediately appealed his conviction.
According to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, Zhang’s arrest made national news in China. “In addition to his local store, Zhang’s bookstore sold Christian books online,” says Representative Foley. “When he was arrested, the Ministry of Public Security announced that state security agents would be contacting his online customers by using receipts they had seized as evidence. They reportedly contacted over 10,000 of Zhang’s customers throughout China.” Representative Foley says that the key question in the inquiry was whether customers had purchased the book Transformation of the Gospel by Wang Yi, the pastor of the embattled Early Rain Covenant Church who was sentenced to nine years in prison in December 2019.
Sources told Voice of the Martyrs Korea that authorities confiscated all copies of Wang Yi’s book from Zhang’s customers, as well as another 12,000 books from Zhang’s store, as evidence for the trial. The books will be destroyed, the sources said.
According to Representative Foley, the primary business of Xiaomai Bookstore was providing its customers access to foreign Christian publications. Authorities claimed that Zhang sold over 20,000 books to more than 10,000 customers. The books were reportedly worth nearly 3 million CNY (approximately 500 million KRW).
“In recent years, the CCP has increased its enforcement against the sale, purchase, and reading of Christian materials outside of official state channels,” says Representative Foley. “The punishments are especially high when the materials involved were written by foreign Christian authors or by Chinese Christians who have been targeted by the government.”
A bookstore in China (Photo: Flickr).
Zheng Jinmei, Zhang Xiaomai’s mother, sent out an open prayer request after his first trial:
“Before [Zhang Xiaoomai’s] first trial, I cried every day so that I was out of strength and didn’t want to eat, but God comforted me, woke my soul up, and used a lot of brothers and sisters who we don’t know to help us and pray for us, I know that God doesn’t abandon us, thank you all! The following is my prayer:
- May the Lord help my son’s faith and be with him so that my son knows what happened to him is the cross that God permits him to bear. God’s grace is sufficient regardless of the result.
- May the Lord oversee prosecutors and judges ofZhangXiaomai’s 2nd trial so that they will handle Chen Yu’s case with justice. May God’s conscience guide them.
- There have been alot of changes in the faith environment in China because everyone faces enormous pressure. May the Lord reveal His works in this time and help us follow him courageously.”
Individuals interested in learning more about Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s partnership with Chinese unregistered churches can visit www.vomkorea.com/en/china.