Date: April 22, 2013
China Aid Association
(Nanyang, Henan–April 21, 2013) A well-known U.S. church leader, Dennis Balcombe, was being held by police under house arrest following a Saturday raid on a house church revival meeting and his current whereabouts are unknown, ChinaAid has learned.
(Right: File photo of Dennis Balcombe)
Also in Henan province, seven house church leaders in Pingdingshan have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 7-1/2 years in prison on cult charges.
In Nanyang, the raid by police, Domestic Security Protection agents and officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau occurred on Saturday morning, just hours after the start of what had been planned as a three-day revival meeting, with attendees from the city of Wenzhou and the provinces of Hubei and Henan, as well as house church believers from some other places.
According to one of the attendees, the house church that had organized the meeting specializes in prayer ministry and calls itself Mt. Prayer Church. He said it is believed to be part of the Fangcheng Fellowship, one of China's largest and oldest house church networks.
Also at the meeting was Dennis Balcombe from Hong Kong Revival Chinese Ministries International and two of its woman employees. ChinaAid's source about the raid said that when he and the local church leaders left, Balcombe and his co-workers were still being held by police under house arrest.
When the 70 revival meeting attendees gathered on Saturday morning, they all handed over their cell phones to a designated person from the organizing church. This was a security precaution to prevent the phones becoming tracking devices that would lead authorities to their meeting site. They then boarded a bus to the meeting venue at a retreat center in the Wolong district of the city of Nanyang.
At about 10 a.m., not long after the meeting began, several dozen police, Domestic Security Protection agents and religious affair bureau officials swarmed into the room. Without showing any identification, they began filming and photographing the event. When one of the attendees tried to take videos of them with his digital camera, it was confiscated from him and had not been returned at the time of this report.
The Domestic Protection Security agents said they needed to check on some things in the room, then proceeded to finger print and palm print each person at the meeting. Each person was also interrogated, while a written record of the questioning was taken, and each person also had to sign police documents.
Also in Henan, seven house church leaders were sentenced on April 1 to prison sentences ranging from three to 7-1/2 years, according to the well-known Christian lawyer Li Baiguang. Their defense lawyers received the verdict and sentencing papers just last week.
Those who were sentenced were:
Han Hai, 7-1/2 year sentence, male, aged 60, previously administratively detained twice, was also sentenced to a labor camp for three years. Now held in the Ye County Detention Center.
Hu Linpo, seven year sentence, from Singapore, male, aged 49, the house church’s main preacher, was detained in 1989 for 30 days. Criminally detained on April 18 and is now held in the Ye County Detention Center.
Yang Lianbin, four-year sentence, male, aged 23, working in Zhengzhou. Now held in the Ye County Detention Center.
Zhang Mian, three-year sentence, female, aged 37, owner of the residence where the church meets. Criminally detained on April 20, now held in the Pingdingshan Detention Center.
Cao Xia, 3-1/2-year sentence, female, in her 50s, owner of another residence where the church meets. Police seized from her home CDs of Hu Linpo preaching and a computer used to make copies of the sermon CDs. Police also confiscated a Chinese-made Liebao SUV parked outside Cao’s home that belonged to a Christian man who was there to listen to the preaching. Cao was criminally detained on April 20 and is now held in the Pingdingshan Detention Center.
Wang En, three-year sentence, female, in her 20s, taken from Cao Xia’s home, said to have helped make copies of Preacher Hu’s sermon CDs. Held in the Ye County Detention Center.
Li Dan, three-year sentence, female, in her 20s, taken from Cao Xia’s home, probably for copying CDs. Held in the Pindingshan Detention Center.
See our earlier report on this case: http://www.chinaaid.org/2012/06/update-pingdingshan-hebei-province.html?m=1
"This latest wave of religious persecution shows that the situation for religious freedom in China continues to worsen," said ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu.
"We urge the Chinese authorities to immediately release Pastor Dennis Balcombe and his two coworkers from Hongkong. The officers who abused their powers by raiding a peaceful prayer service should be held accountable."
ChinaAid is shocked at this incident and will monitor developments in this case closely.
Below is a brief introduction to Balcombe and his ministry:
Dennis Balcombe has long been in Christian ministry in Hong Kong and he speaks fluent Chinese. He is regarded as the main figure behind mainland China's early charismatic movement. In the 1960s, he founded City Revival Church in Hong Kong and later he founded Revival Chinese Ministries International. He not only has been involved with the China's house churches, he has also teamed up to do ministry work with the government Three-Self churches, for example preaching at Three-Self churches.
Some of Balcombe’s sermons in Chinese can be viewed here:
In this late 2011 interview (in English), Balcombe claimed there was a great freedom in China to spread the Gospel and that he had seen little persecution in the past several years: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BJfx9jY4k0）
More biographical information is available here: http://rcmi.wordpress.com/about-dennis-balcombe/