Name: Chen Yu
Area of Origin: China
Background: Chen Yu is a Christian bookseller who, prior to his arrest, operated an online shop called Xiaomai (Wheat) Bookstore.
Reason for his arrest and imprisonment:
In late September 2019, Mr. Chen was charged with conducting “illegal business operations” and was fined 200,000 yuan (≈ USD $30,000). He was subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison. His online bookstore sold ‘illegal’ religious texts and publications that Chen had imported from the United States and Taiwan, and his shop was extremely lucrative. According to Chinese officials, Xiaomai Bookstore sold no fewer than 20,000 books and profited nearly 3 million yuan (≈ USD $430,000).
Going beyond simply arresting and imprisoning Chen, Chinese police authorities started a comprehensive investigation in hopes to identify and locate customers of Xiaomai Bookstore. Using shipping labels and purchasing receipts, authorities are planning on visiting the customers and confiscating the books they bought.
“Officials also demanded that customers who had bought copies of ‘Transformation of the Gospel’ by imprisoned Pastor Wang Yi return the book and directed security guards to question purchasers of the book about their experiences from childhood to adulthood, their family members, job, reading orientation and religion.”
The local Linhai City Public Security Bureau is to destroy and eliminate the 12,864 books from his shop.
Current status, as of December 2020:
On 22 December 2020, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released a public statement condemning the charging and imprisonment of Chen Yu:
“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. 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.” – USCIRF Commissioner Gary Bauer
“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. 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.” – USCIRF Commissioner Nury Turkel