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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 July, 2005, 09:05 GMT 10:05 UK
China pastor on trial over Bibles
A Chinese woman prays at the government-approved Nantang Catholic Cathedral in Beijing
Chinese Christians must worship in state-approved churches
The leader of an underground Chinese church appeared in a Beijing court on Thursday, accused of illegally printing more than 200,000 Bibles.

Cai Zhuohua, along with his wife and two other church members, has been charged with "illegal business practices", his lawyers have said.

The Protestant pastor has already been in detention for 10 months.

Although Bibles are not illegal in China, only one firm is permitted by the state to print them.

The country's Christians are also only allowed to worship in state-approved churches, although many people prefer to attend underground or "house" churches such as Pastor Cai's.

The case was adjourned without a verdict.

Mr Cai's lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, conceded that he was not optimistic about the verdict for the three detainees.

"It is impossible for them to be found innocent, but I have confidence to strive for lighter sentences," Mr Gao told the French news agency AFP.

"The books in no way were going to enter the market, they were to be given away free of charge to the church members," he added.

"The court should not be used to oppress religion and religious freedoms, but the authorities are always using economics as a pretext to deal with religious and political issues."

Bob Fu, president of the US-based China Aid Association (CAA), said the trial would be "a true litmus test for the Beijing government's religious freedom claims".

"Given the fact that 2008 Olympics will be held in Beijing, the international community has an obligation to demand the Beijing government show the true spirit of the rule of law and respect of religious freedom for ordinary citizens like Pastor Cai," he said.




SEE ALSO:
China rules on religion 'relaxed'
19 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese Catholics 'detained'
27 Oct 03 |  Asia-Pacific
China's Catholics: Far from Rome
24 Dec 03 |  Asia-Pacific


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