The case of ten Christians in Hohhot City, Inner Mongolia, China went to trial last month after nearly three years of pre-trial delays. The Christians are facing charges of illegal business operations for purchasing Bibles from the state-run Three-Self Church and reselling them to other Christians at a lower price.
At the center of the case is 68-year-old Evangelist Wang Honglan, who, according to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, continues to earn sympathy and respect from fellow prisoners and trial observers for her pure faith and conduct in the face of harsh treatment from authorities.
“Over the years, to make the Bible more affordable, Evangelist Wang Honglan and her co-workers purchased Bibles from the Three-Self Church in Nanjing at 95% of regular price and sold them at 75% of regular price,” says Representative Foley. “Not only were they not trying to make a profit; they intentionally spent a lot of their own money to spread the word of God among ordinary people.”
Despite the charitable nature of their activities, the ten defendants have already been detained for two years and seven months. According to Representative Foley, Evangelist Wang Honglan, the oldest defendant, age 68, has been imprisoned for a total of five years, including reeducation through labor for one year due to her faith.
“The authorities have done everything they can to shame Evangelist Wang Honglan,” says Representative Foley. “At the trial last month, she was brought into the courtroom in handcuffs, as though she were a dangerous prisoner. She was repeatedly mistreated during the investigation and pre-trial process. In response to police questioning, she explained that she had helped many children continue their education and even study abroad. The police called her a liar, but during the trial last month, many of the parents whose children she had helped were present in the court room to support her.”
According to Representative Foley, Wang Honglan said that during the investigation police threatened to imprison her family members if she didn’t sign statements of confession. “That’s why she signed everything,” says Representative Foley, who believes the forced nature of the confessions are the reason why authorities have not included the video and audio recordings of police interviews with Wang Honglan in their evidence at the trial.
According to witnesses, Wang Honglan recounted during the trial that she had not been permitted to speak to other prisoners during her detention but had been forced to give massages to others in the detention center. “Her hands are still in pain,” says Representative Foley.
But according to Representative Foley, the authorities’ attempts to shame Wang Honglan have only resulted in others viewing her with sympathy and respect. “Her fellow prisoners came to respect her as they saw the genuineness of her faith,” says Representative Foley. “At the trial, when her attorney asked her about her religious beliefs, she recited the Apostle’s Creed, though court officials interrupted her.”
According to Representative Foley, attorneys for the defendants have built their case around the selflessness of the Christians. “The defense attorneys recommended the dismissal of all charges, saying that the defendants are on trial for their good deeds, not crimes,” notes Representative Foley. “One of the attorneys told the court, ‘We are all beneficiaries of the Holy Bible. Perhaps many Christians’ Holy Bibles were subsidized by Wang Honglan and other defendants. They have paid a great price for this, and the lawyers urge everyone not to forget them.’”
Wang Honglan, 68, one of the main defendants in the case of subsidizing the discounted re-selling of Three-Self Church Bibles in Hohhot City in Inner Mongolia, China.
The ten defendants were arrested and charged with illegal business operations on April 14, 2021. Wang Honglan, her nephew Wang Jiale and her co-workers Liu Minna and Ban Yanhong were identified as the main defendants, with the prosecution recommending a sentence of 10 to 15 years. Wang Honglan’s 73-year-old husband Ji Heying, their second son Ji Guolong, and co-workers Yang Zhijun, Liu Wei, Zhang Wang, and Li Chao are named as secondary offenders, with the prosecution recommending sentences of varying length.
The prosecutor’s office claims the group has been responsible for more than 40 million CNY (approximately $5.6 million USD) of Bible sales.
Representative Foley says that after an initial five–day pre-trial meeting in January 2022, COVID-related delays prevented further pre-trial work from continuing until March 20 of this year, while the defendants have had to remain in prison. “The trial was initially scheduled for May 9, but was postponed several times,” says Representative Foley. “Despite all the delays, the defendants have never once shouted or lost control of their tempers. The attorney says they are exemplary Christians.”
Notice of the Bible discounters’ trial, as issued by the court.
According to Representative Foley, several attorneys are defending the Christians. “Despite the clear innocence of Evangelist Wang Honglan and her co-defendants and the groundless charges against them, they have already been held in prison for several years,” says Representative Foley. “We pray for the Lord to bring this trial to a speedy and just conclusion, where the Lord and his servants are vindicated. But if it pleases the Lord and serves his eternal purpose for them to continue to make this witness for him in court and in prison, then let us pray for the Lord to empower their witness and to sustain them in any further suffering they must bear in his name.”
Individuals interested in learning about or supporting Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s work in partnership with persecuted Christians in China can visit www.vomkorea.com/en/china or give via electronic transfer to:
KB Bank: 463501-01-243303
Account Holder: (사)순교자의소리
Please note “China” on the transfer.