BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese customs officials stopped four American missionaries and confiscated more than 300 Bibles they were trying to bring into the country, state media and a member of the group they belong to said.
Patrick Klein, founder of the missionary group Vision Beyond Borders, and three volunteers were detained on Sunday at Kunming airport in southern China, but were eventually released, regional coordinator Dyann Romeijn said.
“They confiscated all of the bibles, 315 in total, and were told that only one per person was allowed,” she told Reuters.
China’s Communist government keeps a tight grip on religious activity and the country’s Christian, Muslim and Buddhist communities are officially only allowed to worship at state recognized churches, mosques and temples.
Rights groups regularly criticize the government for restricting the right to worship and arresting those who try to follow their faith outside state appointed bodies.
The state news agency Xinhua said the Americans would have needed approval to import the Bibles.
“According to Chinese law, each overseas visitor is allowed to bring in no more than three basic units (books, volumes or box) of printed religious materials or visual and audio publications for their own use,” it said.
“Undeclared religious publications would be confiscated, ordered to be sent back, or held under the supervision of customs.”
China pledged that free Bibles in both English and Chinese bearing the Beijing Olympic logo would be available to athletes and tourists during the Games, which started on August 8.