Two-year prison sentence for Hong Kong Bible smuggler
Lai Kwong-keung (Li Guangqiang), the Hong Kong businessman arrested for bringing thousands of Bibles to members of the underground Shouters church, was sentenced today to two years in prison. That Bible smuggling is a crime at all is horrible, but the sentence is remarkably light for China. Just a month ago, house church leaders were sentenced to death, and observers feared the same for Lai. "I think this is a one-off circumstance, politically motivated ahead of President Bush's visit" Rose Wu, director of the Hong Kong Christian Institute, explains to the Associated Press. "It is not an indication of greater religious tolerance in China."
On a related note, Chinese embassy spokesman Xie Feng has a letter to USA Today responding to the paper's recent editorial against religious persecution in China. It's basically the same old story: China isn't arresting religious leaders because they're religious leaders; it's arresting religious leaders because they're criminals. "Gong Shengliang, a 49-year-old man from Zaoyang, Hubei Province of China, was sentenced to death not for the 'unlicensed practice of Christianity,' as USA Today's editorial says, but because of committing crimes," Xie wrote. Of course, one of those crimes was continuing to lead a banned religious organization, but the Chinese government has also come up with other charges: arson, rape, breaking the legs and throwing sulfuric acid in the faces of those they disagreed with, etc. Hmm. Funny. They've said that about other religious leaders they've imprisoned too.
Ralph Reed is linchpin in Bush-Enron conspiracy theory
The New York Timessummarizes this week's news about the former head of the Christian Coalition: