Customs officials seized the Bibles when four Vision Beyond Borders members arrived at Kunming Airport in Yunnan province Sunday, The Times of London reported.
"The authorities at the airport kept asking us to leave and producing pieces of paper which they said proved that bringing more than one Bible per person into the country was illegal," Pat Klein, the leader of the group from Sheridan, Wyo., told the Times. "But it all looked bogus to us."
The law was translated into English when the U.S. Embassy became involved, the British newspaper said.
"We didn't know about the law," Klein said.
The group was treated well, he said, but was videotaped and awakened through the night.
Klein, 46, Steve Nicols, 60, Forrest Higginbotham, 78, and Stephen Constantinous, 15, Higginbotham's grandson, planned to distribute the Bibles to Chinese Christians in Kunming, Klein said.
"We're hearing the propaganda that China is printing 800,000 Bibles every month," Klein said. "But they're not getting to the people."
He said the Bibles they had brought were printed in accordance with Chinese requirements.