In a letter obtained by BosNewsLife, Zhou Heng said he wanted to "healthfully thank all sisters, brothers, and friends in China, America, Europe, and all around the world, for the care and prayers for me during the time I was arrested and put into prison."
Zhou, who is the manager of a registered Christian bookstore, the Yayi Christian Book Room, was detained August 3 in Urumqi, the capital of China’s autonomous region of Xinjiang, for possession of 5,184 copies of Bibles.
They Bibles were apparently donated by South Korean churches to distribute for free among believers. However in a statement, a local court overturned a decision to detain him on charges related to "illegal Bible printing", BosNewsLife learned.
"After reviews and additional investigations that were returned twice, this procurator still believes that the crime determined by Shayibake District Branch of Urumqi Municipal Public Security Bureau is not based on clear facts and do not have sufficient evidence,” the court said. "Therefore, their claims do not qualify for prosecution. Pursuant to Clause 4, Article 142 of the "Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China," it is decided not to prosecute Zhou Heng."
Zhou said the decision was made in February and that he recently returned home and had reunited with his family. It was believed he will need time to recover after what rights watchers described as “inhumane treatment” during his several months of imprisonment.
Officers initially hand-cuffed Zhou on his back, and he was forced to sleep on the concrete floor during the first month of his arrest, said China Aid Association, an advocacy group which closely monitored the case. “He was only provided a bed after CAA reported about his arrest,” the group added.
Zhou shared a cell with 14 other inmates, who, CAA said, were directed by authorities “to beat him as an attempt to make Zhou testify against himself, which Zhou refused.”
On August 31, Zhou was formally charged and transferred to Xishan Prison in Urumqi. "At first, the Ministry of Public Security denied Zhou’s access to a lawyer, claiming that his case is classified due to national security reason. Zhou was finally assigned a lawyer in September 14," CAA said.
Throughout his ordeal Zhou maintained his innocence and asked for more legal assistance from outside Xinjiang.
In his letter, he said that till his eventual acquittal on February 19 he was encouraged by the knowledge that Christians around the world campaigned and praying for his release.
"It also reminds me of something Lord Jesus says, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, … I was in prison and you came to visit me … I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me," Zhou said in a letter, quoting the Bible.
His release comes amid growing international pressure on China to improve religious and other human rights, ahead of the Olympic Games, later this year. (With BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).