Chinese court sentences Christian woman to 3 years in jail for holding Bible study

A court in western Xinjiang, China has sentenced a Christian woman to spend three years in jail for arranging and participating in a Bible study, which was deemed as illegal.

(REUTERS / CNSphoto)Fire fighting trucks are seen at a street near the site of a blast in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region May 22, 2014.

On Friday, a local court in western Xinjiang handed Ma Huichao a three-year prison sentence for allegedly holding a Bible study without prior approval from the government. She faced trial in mid-November for the charge of "gathering a crowd to disturb public order," China Aid details.

Ma was reportedly detained with several other Christians. When she was tried in November, her lawyer, Li Dunyong, was reportedly not allowed to file a "not guilty" plea for the Christian woman.

Ma's three-year prison sentence started on Dec. 30. She has no plans of appealing the sentence.

In the meantime, on Oct. 22 and Nov. 27, Chinese authorities in Yunnan province detained several Christians for alleged involvement in cult activities to oppose the law. Tu Yan, who was detained with four other church members, was accused of playing an important role in "evil cults" and for arranging three meetings for the said organizations.

Tu's father has denied the allegations against his daughter. Her lawyer also said he believes his client has never been part of such cults. Authorities later released three of the detained Christians, but at least two others including Tu have been left behind.

On Nov. 27, police detained eight Christians in Kunming using the same allegation. According to government officials, the Christians are members of the Shouters, a Christian sect which traces its origins to Taiwan.

The Shouters is considered a cult in China, but its members maintain that they are Christians. Pastor Xu Yonghai of the Holy Love Fellowship in Beijing also claims that the sect is a Christian denomination.

According to Pastor Xu, there are many Christians who are accused of being part of a cult even though they do not know anything about these groups.