The lengthy trial of Wang Honglan (pictured) and nine other Christians on the charge of “illegal business operations” finally concluded in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia on 8 January after 49 days. The charges were brought against the Christians because they bought Bibles from the government-approved Three-Self Church and resold them to fellow Christians at a lower price. The prosecutor recommended a sentence of more than five years for Wang Honglan and others but the verdict has not yet been announced.
After the prosecutor’s sentence recommendation, the presiding judge allowed Wang Honglan and the other defendants to speak to the court.
Wang Honglan thanked God, stating that she felt God’s love from the moment she believed in Jesus and responded to God’s love. She acknowledged that she had given away Bibles, initially one or two, but then many more. She also admitted discussing with members of the local Three-Self Church how to make Bibles accessible to people in remote areas. She admitted purchasing Bibles but stated that other people were not involved; it was an agreement reached between her and the Three-Self Church.
Wang Honglan denied receiving half of the Bible fund and also stated that she was unaware throughout the process that selling Bibles at a discounted price was illegal. She said that she did not sell Bibles outside the church but only to Christians within the church. She said, “The prosecutor says I am hiding behind the cloak of religion, but I don’t acknowledge that. God has helped me; I haven’t committed the crime.”
The presiding judge said, “Wang Honglan, I hear you. Control your emotions, or else we’ll adjourn the session.”
Lawyer Zhao Qingshan, seeing Wang Honglan emotionally distressed, comforted her by saying, “God has already heard your cries.”
“We are Christians, and the Bible is sacred to us”
One of Wang Honglan’s fellow-defendants, Yang Zhijun, stated that there was no evidence proving they made a profit, and all the evidence was riddled with holes. He said, “We are Christians, and the Bible is sacred to us. Our purpose is for God’s word to change many people… I actually have a lot of emotions. I’m thirty-six years old, and I didn’t know there was a place called a detention centre in the world. When I entered, I thought it was a prison. In my faith, even telling a lie requires confessing to God and facing the condemnation of conscience. Committing a crime is something Christians cannot justify to God.”
He said that initially he couldn’t understand why this group of people trying their best to please God ended up in a detention centre for over two years. At one point, he had severe depression and considered ending his life, but the thought of his parents, wife and children made him lose the courage and later he found the answers and reasons within his faith that sustained him. He said, “Going to prison for faith, whether for three or five years, I am very willing in my heart. I have confidence in the court, but I have even more confidence in the Lord because He is the creator of all things.”
Another defendant, Zhang Wang, stated that their purpose was not profit, and said that he personally subsidised the price difference to provide Bibles to struggling Christians, considering it as serving God. He said that Wang Honglan loves young people and treats them like her own children. He said that he had no regrets working alongside her for the sake of faith, even if it leads to death.
After the defence lawyers each presented their not guilty defence, the presiding judge allowed all the defendants to make their final statements.
Wang Honglan said, “Thank God for letting me live, and giving me the opportunity to speak… Presiding judge, Jesus asks me to speak the truth. Thanks to God who resurrected from death. I am afraid I am a poor talker, but I can sing. I appreciate this opportunity, and I am very grateful. The lawyers have accompanied us. Our God is almighty, and my tears are tears of gratitude. I thank the people in the audience. I lost consciousness after standing in the detention centre for two hours, but the Lord helped me stay alive. I have been through a lot, but I fear my daughter hearing about it.”
She concluded by reciting the Apostle’s Creed.
Photo: China Aid