Dec 22, 2020
USCIRF Condemns Harsh Sentence for Christian Bookseller Chen Yu
Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns the harsh and disproportionate sentence handed down to Chinese Christian bookseller Chen Yu. In September 2019, local authorities in Linhai City, Zhejiang Province, criminally detained Chen for selling Christian books imported from overseas. In September 2020, authorities sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment on the charge of “illegal business operations” and fined him 200,000 yuan (approximately US $30,000).
“The seven-year sentence for Christian bookseller Chen Yu is extremely disproportionate and outrageous. It further shows that the Chinese Communist government is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christianity,” said USCIRF Commissioner Gary Bauer. “I call on the local government in Linhai City to immediately grant him the right to post bail and appeal his sentence. Chen deserves to be home with his family this Christmas, not behind bars.”
Chen’s harsh sentence came against a larger background of China’s escalating persecution of religious communities, including Protestant Christians. Those involved in Christian publishing in particular—including the publication or distribution of Bibles—have come under increasing scrutiny. In addition to Chen Yu, authorities in Bao’an District of Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province charged and sentenced two other Christian publishers in December for “illegal business operations.” The seven-year sentence against Chen, however, presents the harshest such penalty to date.
“Chen Yu’s sentence is not only disproportionate to his alleged crime—it is also yet another flagrant assault on religion by the Chinese government,” added USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel, “Chinese authorities have made it clear through their continued mistreatment of Uyghurs, Christians, Falun Gong Practitioners, and Tibetans that religious activity of any kind is unwelcome.”
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. Department of State continue to designate China as a Country of Particular Concern, a recommendation USCIRF has made since its first Annual Report in 1999.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at firstname.lastname@example.org