When Li Wenxi, a Beijing book store worker traveled to Shanxi province in December to help local Christians open a new book store in the capital city Taiyuan, he was threatened by local state security agents.
“Don’t you dare bring Christian culture here,” one agent allegedly shouted at Li and his co-workers, “This is our turf.”
The police raided the new store and confiscated hundreds of books Li brought with him from Beijing.
A few days later, they phoned Li and said they would like to return the books. Without realising it was a “trap”, Li met them at a local police station.
That was the last time Li’s wife has heard from him.
It has been more than three months since Li was illegally detained by police in Taiyuan.
His wife, Li Caihong, said she has been praying everyday for him.
She was particularly baffled when police told her Li had been charged with “illegally operating a business”.
“How could he have been operating a business when he was only there to help?” she said.
Police have also denied her bid to bail Li out, stressing the seriousness of his "crime".
An officer overseeing Li's case stopped answering the phone after she called several times, pleading for Li’s release, said Li Caihong.
The desperate wife and mother of two then turned to Weibo, China’s popular social media webiste, where she discussed Li’s imprisonment and asked for help.
Li’s Weibo message was reposted over 4,000 times and received hundreds of comments.
“Shanxi is one of the places where Christians are persecuted with the harshest measures,” wrote a blogger from Beijing’s Gangwashi Church. “Revenge is mine; I will repay,” he said before quoting a verse from the Bible.
The comment is interesting - given the aggressively-worded press release Taiyuan’s offcials released on their website in March. It is entitled: “Yingze District successfully clamped down on a case of Christianity.”
The article gloated about how officials raided an ‘underground’ congregation and dispelled the believers. But the story was bombarded with criticism from scholars, Christians and other bloggers after someone posted it on Weibo. The article has been withdrawn since from the government website without any explanation.
Not allowed to see her husband in jail, Li Caihong has hired him a lawyer who managed to pay him a few visits, upon which Li Wenxi said he had converted several of his 20 cellmates into Christians.
Li Caihong said she’s extremely anxious since she has been lying to her 88-year-old mother-in-law, who's in the dark about her son’s jailment.
“She kept asking me on the phone where her son is,” she said. "But the truth will destroy her."
A 2010 study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said there were 20 million Christians in the country. Many believe the actual number is much higher.