A Chinese Christian bookstore owner sentenced to seven years in prison for alleged illegal business operations has been released from prison more than two years early, according to persecution ministry Voice of the Martyrs Korea. Chen Yu, the former owner and operator of “Xiaomai Bookstore” in Linhai City in Taizhou, Zhejiang Province was released from the province’s Jinhua Prison on April 4. According to Voice of the Martyrs Korea, he was met by more than a dozen Christians from across China, including his mother, who had protested publicly that the sentence against her son was too harsh. After his release, Chen Yu returned to his home in Linhai. He is not permitted to leave the city during the time of his parole.

Officials arrested Chen Yu in September of 2019, claiming he had sold more than 20,000 Christian books worth a reported 12,820,000 yuan (approx. 2.4 billion KRW) to over 10,000 customers. A year later he was sentenced to 7 years in prison and fined 200,000 yuan (approx. 37,400,000 KRW) for alleged illegal business operations. Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley says that almost 13,000 books in the store’s inventory were reportedly seized and destroyed. 

“Chen Yu’s arrest led to the launch of a nationwide hunt for the book buyers using receipts confiscated from the store,” says Representative Foley. She says that more than 10,000 buyers were reportedly contacted, including many in their homes. “The key question in the investigation was whether buyers had bought the book ‘Transformation of the Gospel’ by Pastor Wang Yi from Early Rain Covenant Church,” says Representative Foley. In December 2019, Pastor Wang was sentenced to 9 years in prison for alleged subversion of state power and illegal business operations. Representative Foley says those with knowledge of the investigation say authorities confiscated all copies of Wang Yi’s book from buyers.  

Chen Yus alleged crimes involved selling translations of foreign Christian books to his customers, as well as selling Pastor Wang Yis book, says Representative Foley. His case is part of a growing trend by Chinese communist authorities to criminalize the sale of all Christian literature which is not part of the governments Sinicization movement which requires churches to praise and promote communism.  

Representative Foley said that as Chen Yu appealed his sentence in court, his mother, Zheng Jinmei, wrote an article protesting the severity of her son’s sentence. “Her article, ‘Selling Books versus Prostitution’, complained that courts had sentenced Christian booksellers jail terms 170 times harsher than the jail sentences given to prostitutes,” says Representative Foley.  

Although Chen Yu lost two legal appeals, Representative Foley says the family believes the Lord was at work through the process.  

While Chen Yu was serving his sentence, his father was suffering from cancer, says Representative Foley. But when Chen Yus father saw the care and concern for Chen Yu and his family from other Christians, he became a Christian himself, and his cancer was later cured. She says that Chen Yu and his mother, Zheng Jinmei, prayed daily at 5 p.m. from both sides of the prison wallsChen Yu inside and his mother outsideand experienced a strengthened faith in Christ as a result. 

Chen Yu and his parents celebrate his release outside Jinhua Prison on April 4.

Representative Foley says the reason for Chen Yu’s early release from prison is unclear, but she believes the Lord heard the prayers of Christians around the world and moved authorities to release him. She says she hopes Christians will now focus their prayers on Early Rain Church Pastor Wang Yi, who is in his fifth year of imprisonment with little updated information available about his condition. 

Individuals interested in learning more about Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s partnership with Chinese unregistered churches can visit   

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