CHINA: Seven house church leaders given long prison sentences

On 1 April, seven house church leaders in Henan Province were given prison sentences ranging from three to seven and a half years, according to the well-known Christian lawyer Li Baiguang. Their defence lawyers received the verdict and sentencing papers last week.

The Christians were detained on 14 April 2012, when more than 200 police and government officials surrounded and raided a house church Bible study meeting in Daying village in the city of Pingdingshan, Henan province. The entire county police force was involved, equipped with two water cannons, along with local government officials, the fire brigade and anti-terrorism police. They took 54 Christians into custody, including a mother and baby, and held them in a yard for half a day, before transferring them to an animal quarantine station for a week.

After an investigation, eight of the Christians were criminally detained. One of the eight, Qi Siyu, from Liaoning province, was released after her friends paid 3000 yuan (approximately €373) in unspecified fees. She is about 18 years old and is an orphan. The remaining seven were formally arrested and charged with “organising a cult to undermine law enforcement”.

The seven who have been sentenced are:

Han Hai (60), given a seven-and-a half-year sentence. Previously he was administratively detained twice and also sentenced to imprisonment in a labour camp for three years. He is in the Ye County Detention Centre.

Hu Linpo (49), given a seven-year sentence. He is from Singapore and is the house church’s main preacher. Previously detained for 30 days, in 1989, he is in the Ye County Detention Centre.

Yang Lianbin (23), given a four-year sentence. He is in the Ye County Detention Centre.

Zhang Mian (37), given a three-year sentence. She owns the residence where the church meets, and is in the Pingdingshan Detention Centre.

Cao Xia (in her 50s), given a three-and-a-half-year sentence. She owns 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 SUV parked outside, which belonged to a Christian attending the meeting. Cao Xia is in the Pingdingshan Detention Centre.

Wang En (in her 20s), given a three-year sentence. She was said to have helped make copies of the sermon CDs, and is in the Ye County Detention Centre.

Li Dan (in her 20s), given a three-year sentence. She was probably involved in copying CDs, and is in the Pindingshan Detention Centre.

ChinaAid’s Response

ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu said, “This latest wave of religious persecution shows that the situation for religious freedom in China continues to worsen.”

At the time of the arrests, Bob Fu said, “The ‚Äòcult law’ has already been used to detain tens of thousands of individuals, often without trial or due process. Now it is increasingly being used to target Protestant ‚Äòhouse church’ gatherings. Our independent investigation finds that these house church members who are under arrest have not done anything wrong or anything illegal. They are being persecuted for nothing more than the exercise of their right to religious freedom by peacefully gathering to worship God. We urge the international community to pay close attention to this case so that those who have perpetrated this persecution are held accountable.”

(China Aid Association)