A Beijing court has found Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan guilty of illegal business operation and sentenced him to three years in prison and a 150,000 yuan (US$21,975) fine.
Sources said Shi's store operated legally and sold only books for which he had obtained government permission, and that his Holy Spirit Trading Co. printed Bibles and Christian literature without authorization but only for free distribution to
local house churches.
Others in a printing company who stood trial with Shi appeared to have received similar sentences. A written judgment is expected within 15 days to allow time for an appeal to be filed, said Ray Sharpe, a friend of Shi.
Chinese officials claim that the Nanjing Amity Printing Co. (Amity Press), the only government-approved Bible publisher, produces enough Bibles to meet the needs of the Chinese church, which various religious freedom organizations dispute. The
groups complain that Amity prints a large share of its Bibles for export, and those sold domestically are not available to many Christians.
A New Zealand film and television classification laws are being brought into question with many businesses calling them outdated and prohibitive.
Every film or television show that comes to New Zealand cinemas, video stores or retail outlets has to be rated. New Zealand adopts or cross-rates G, PG and M ratings from Australia and Britain but 15 and 18 rated films must be classified by New
Video store owner Andrew Armitage says businesses just want fairness with classification laws: We're not asking for a relaxation of classification or censorship we just want fairness restored because it is too often prohibitive . Armitage
wants to see the threshold raised for the 15 plus age group.
Chief Censor Bill Hastings says they have been warned against such a move. The Australian New Zealand trans-Tasman Recognition Committee has decided that there are sufficient differences between Australia and New Zealand culture and law, that
they recommended against creating a single market.
For example five seasons of the television show The L Word would have cost distributors $17,600 to be processed. Armitage says such price tags are a huge deterrent: Anything that has this red sticker on it has to go through the
classification process, so that's $1100 worth of classification costs right there .
Hastings says the fees have remained the same for 13 years despite inflation, making them a bargain: Our classification fees are extremely competitive with Australia classification fees which range from $500 AUD to $5000 AUD. The Chief
Censor can also grant fee waivers dropping that cost to $275 each, a reduction automatically given to film festival movies.
International film festival director Bill Gosden says costs are still high despite the waiver: Although we do receive a concession rate, a fee waiver from the classification office, we still spent in excess of $30,000 last year in film
censorship . Because so many titles are unavailable locally and legitimately consumers are finding other ways to access them, which retailers say not only affects business, but can also lead to illegal purchase and distribution.
Li Dunyong, one of several lawyers involved in the defense of Uyghur house church Christian Alimjan Yimit was effectively disbarred at the end of May when Chinese authorities turned down an annual application to renew his law license.
Zhang Kai, another Beijing lawyer who had defended Alimjan, suffered the same fate.
Authorities failed to renew licenses for at least 15 other lawyers who had defended civil rights cases, religious and ethnic minorities and political dissidents, according to watch group Human Rights in China (HRIC).
During a process of Annual Inspection and Registration for all lawyers and law firms, with a closing date of May 31 for renewal applications, authorities also denied three law firms the necessary approval to practice. Officials harassed
and physically abused several of the affected lawyers in the months prior to the loss of their licenses.
The process of building a country ruled by law has suffered a serious setback, HRIC claimed in a statement on June 4.
The rejection of applications followed the Feb. 4 disappearance of Gao Zhisheng, a high-profile Christian human rights activist who once said that every human rights lawyer would eventually become a human rights case. Gao's whereabouts remained
unknown at press time.