China Accuses Bible Smuggler

BEIJING China - A Hong Kong businessman arrested for bringing religious books into China was smuggling ``cult publications,'' the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Spokesman Sun Yuxi said Li Guangqiang, 38, was distributing illegal materials with the help of members of a banned group. Li ``spread a large amount of cult publications,'' Sun said.

Religious groups in Hong Kong say Li was detained in May for importing thousands of Bibles for a banned Christian group.

Sun accused Li of ``using Bibles as a pretext.'' The spokesman didn't give any details and it wasn't clear whether he was referring to Bibles as cult materials.

Christian publishers in Hong Kong said Li had imported a version of the Bible created by a group known as the ``Shouters Sect.'' It isn't the version approved by Chinese authorities.

President Bush has expressed concern over Li's case, prompting the State Department to seek additional information from Chinese authorities. Sun said the case was being handled according to Chinese law and ``no other country should interfere in the independence of China's judicial system.''

Sun said Li was arrested in the port city of Fuzhou, in the eastern province of Fujian, on July 5, and indicted on Dec. 10.

An official of the Fuzhou Intermediate Court, who gave only his surname, Xie, said he had been ordered not to provide any information about Li's case to reporters.

The Shouters employ a charismatic style of worship that includes shouting out prayers. It was banned by China in 1995 as an ``aberrant religious organization,'' according to the human rights group Amnesty International.

Li has been indicted for ``using a cult to undermine the enforcement of the law,'' according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. It said a court in the city of Fuqing near Fuzhou accused Li of taking 33,080 Bibles to the sect.

Two members of the sect, Yu Zhudi and Lin Xifu, who requested the Bibles, were also indicted, the rights group said.