Chinese Christian Appeals Sentence

BEIJING (AP)--A Chinese Christian convicted of smuggling Bibles is appealing a three-year prison term, arguing that he was forced to confess, a court official said Wednesday.

Yu Zhudi was convicted Jan. 28 in a case that threatened to disrupt a visit to Beijing this month by President Bush. The U.S. embassy has expressed concern about the case.

Yu and another Chinese Christian were convicted with a Hong Kong businessman who brought more than 33,000 Bibles to a banned Chinese church.

``He claimed that he is innocent and was forced to make a confession of guilt,'' said the official of the Intermediate People's Court in the southeastern city of Fuzhou, who spoke on condition he not be named.

The official wouldn't give any details of the appeal and said the court hadn't decided whether to accept it. He said Yu failed to submit some required documents and had no lawyer.

In what appeared to be an attempt to avoid a diplomatic backlash, sentences in the case were lighter than others imposed in an ongoing Chinese crackdown on independent religious groups.

Yu is a member of a group known as the Shouters that has been banned by China's government, which allows only state-monitored church groups.

The businessman, Lai Kwong-keung, was accused of violating anti-cult laws, but was sentenced to two years on the reduced charge of illegally running a business.

The other Chinese Christian, Lin Xifu, got three years. His family says he plans to appeal.