Family members say Shi Weihan is nearly ‘unrecognizable’ due to weight loss.
DUBLIN, September 5 (Compass Direct News) – Beijing Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan is awaiting the outcome of an August 19 court appearance and may be back in court within 10 days, according to Compass sources.
Denied proper medication and diet for his diabetes, Shi is almost “unrecognizable” due to severe weight loss, according to family members.
Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers initially arrested Shi on November 28, charging him with “illegal business practices” after he allegedly published Christian literature without authorization for distribution to house churches. Court officials ordered his release on January 4, citing insufficient evidence.
Officers arrested him again on March 19 and reportedly forced him to sign a “confession” convicting him of engaging in the printing and distribution of a large number of illegal publications.
They also forced Shi’s Antioch Eternal Life Church to close in June.
Shi’s bookstore, located near the Olympic Village, continued to operate during the Games.
Secretive Legal Process
Initially the Beijing PSB denied having Shi in custody, with officials claiming they did not know his whereabouts.
After Shi’s attorney Zhang Xingshui applied pressure, officers finally admitted having him and allowed a single visit with his attorney. They also labeled Shi a “dangerous religious element.”
Shi’s family and friends expected a trial would take place on June 19, the date that marked the end of three months of detention without charges. Chinese law prohibits the PSB from holding Chinese citizens for more than two months without formal charges, and Shi’s family and friends thought the three-month mark might have been significant. (See Compass Direct News, “Christian Bookstore Owner Still Without Trial,” June 20.)
No trial, however, took place on that day.
Authorities recently moved Shi from the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau back to the Haidian District Detention Center where he was held after his first arrest in November 2007.
Shi may have been held virtually “incommunicado” during the Games because of fears that he would use foreign connections to embarrass China during the event, one source who preferred to go unnamed told Compass. Shi has many foreign clients and friends.
“Perhaps the government regarded him as a potential organizer of public dissent, although many who know Shi affirm that he is a peaceful, patriotic and gentle man, not given to drawing attention to himself,” the source added.
Shi’s store operated legally and sold only books for which he had obtained government permission. Under his Holy Spirit Trading Co., however, Shi printed Bibles and Christian literature without authorization for distribution to local house churches, according to Asia Times Online.
Shi’s wife and two daughters are under great strain as a result of his arrest. Sources have asked for prayer that the family’s “strength and faith will not falter.”
Report from Compass Direct News