CHINA: Chen Yu released on parole over two years early

On 4 April Christian bookseller Chen Yu was granted parole from Jinhua Prison and returned to his home in Linhai, Zhejiang province, two years and five months early. He had been in prison since September 2019 and was serving a seven-year prison sentence for selling Christian books online. Chen Yu is pictured with his parents outside the prison.

More than a dozen Christians, including Chen Yu’s parents, went to Jinhua together to collect him and bring him home. He is not allowed to leave his place of residence while on parole.

In September 2020 Chen Yu, whose online name is Zhang Xiaomai, was convicted of “illegal business operation” for operating an online bookshop called Wheat Bookstore and selling foreign-published Christian books. The books he sold were mainly from the American Wheat Publishing House, which is dedicated to translating Christian literature and serving Chinese readers. His prison sentence was due to run until 12 September 2026, and he was also sentenced to a heavy fine of ¥200,000 yuan (approximately €27,700).

Chen Yu filed an application for a second trial, with his defence lawyers and parents submitting evidence to prove that the first trial sentence was too heavy, but his appeal was dismissed.

Books seized and destroyed

After Chen Yu’s arrest in September 2019 the Ministry of Public Security issued a nationwide notice to investigate the books sold by Wheat Bookstore. Many Christians were summoned for questioning and those who refused their summons were pressurised through their employers. During questioning they were required to sign interrogation transcripts to serve as evidence against Wheat Bookstore and they were asked to hand over copies of the book Transformation of the Gospel by Pastor Wang Yi of Chengdu Early Rain Covenant Church, who is serving a nine-year prison sentence, bought from Wheat Bookstore. Some police officers even entered Christians’ homes and took away books from their shelves. All 12,864 books seized were ordered to be destroyed.

The Chinese government restricts the publication and sale of Christian books, bans the publication and distribution of unofficial Christian books and blocks the sharing of e-books for free download. This makes it difficult or impossible for Christians in China to access Christian books.

After the first trial verdict, Chen Yu’s mother Zheng Jinmei wrote an article titled “Selling Books vs Prostitution” in which she angrily criticised the court’s decision and the fact that the sentence for selling Christian books was over 170 times heavier than for prostitution.

During Chen Yu’s imprisonment his father was diagnosed with cancer but because of the care and love he received from fellow Christians he also became a Christian and later his cancer was cured. Chen Yu and his mother prayed inside and outside the prison at five pm every day and Chen Yu said that his and his mother’s faith had become even stronger.

Read Chen Yu’s Prisoner Profile.

(China Aid)

Photo credit: China Aid