By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
Some 60 members, including 30 children, of Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church are seeking asylum in South Korea’s Jeju Island, several sources said.
In comments obtained by Worthy News, the church’s 43-year-old pastor Pan Yongguang acknowledged that the road ahead might seem painful and hazy. He stressed, however, that “suffering is a part of God’s plan.” He said, “There’s no way back for us.”
Reverend Bob Fu, the director of U.S.-based advocacy group ChinaAid, said he and his organization assist the Christians. “We will do our best to urge the Korean and American governments to work together to protect the safety and resettlement of all 60 persecuted Brothers and Sisters now exiled in Jeju Island.”
ChinaAid told Worthy News that several large churches in the U.S. state of Texas are willing to receive those who fled. That would enable “our entire brothers and sisters” to “live and worship there freely,” the group added. “We quietly await God’s great deeds.”
It was not immediately clear whether asylum procedures for reportedly persecuted Chinese Christians would be accessible under the current administration of U.S. President Joe Biden. However, the president expressed concerns about reported rights abuses in China at the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Britain.
The U.S. Embassy in Seoul indicated they already discussed the Church’s situation with South Korean officials, Worthy News. Late last month, an American diplomat reportedly visited the congregation. Pastor Pan said his church members wish to resettle in the U.S., but it remained unclear whether Washington would support the move.
South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment.
The difficulties for Christians in the Chinese city of Shenzhen increased after religious policies tightened under China’s authoritarian leader Xi Jinping, sources told Worthy News. “Shenzhen, once a model open city, dramatically changed from what it used to be,” ChinaAid stressed. “Since China officially passed the newly revised Regulation on Religious Affairs, the degree of freedom for Christianity dropped significantly. Consequently, Churches in Shenzhen experienced the immense pressure of religious persecution.”
Two years ago, in the fall of 2019, members of the reformed church in Shenzhen squeezed into a rented office to discuss whether to remain in China or flee to South Korea. The discussion among more than 50 believers reportedly lasted more than three hours.
Some Church members wanted to flee China to ensure their children could avoid the CCP’s “brainwashing” education and continue their Christian education. However, several Christians also worried about finding jobs in a foreign country or being forced to return to China. “A week after the Church’s discussion, members gathered once again to vote. An overwhelming 56 members voted in favor of moving, while 17 voted to remain in China,” said Christians familiar with the situation.
As Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, established in 2012, remains unregistered, the CCP considers it illegal. “Some Church members who experienced harassment for many years felt that the pressure had reached an unbearable level,” ChinaAid said.
Tourists who hold Chinese passports may enter Jeju Island and obtain a visa upon arrival without having to complete the “tedious application process,” the group added. “Therefore, the 60 members decided to flee to Jeju island collectively. Now that they successfully arrived in Jeju Island, a popular South Korean tourist attraction, however, they face a myriad of new challenges.”
Many of the exiled Christians reportedly struggle to survive during the long asylum application process. “Officials have rejected each application at least once.
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