By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – South Korea turned down asylum requests from dozens of Chinese Christians despite fears their deportation to China could mean imprisonment, “forced disappearances and torture,” Christians said.
Saying they endured “years of persecution” in China, most members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church fled the country in 2019 and sought refuge on JeJu Island in South Korea.
Led by Pastor Pan Yongguang, the 60 Christians, including 28 adults and 32 children, supported themselves with menial labor, according to representatives.
“There’s no way back for us,” Pastor Pan stressed in comments shared with Worthy News. South Korean officials are not known to have commented on the case as the refugees’ future is still being discussed with advocates.
Human rights groups have dubbed the believers the “Mayflower Church” for their similarity to pilgrims who fled England in 1620 due to persecution.
The Voice of the Martyrs Korea advocacy group said it trained church members how to “effectively respond to persecution” if they are forced to return to China.
Advocates said they believe that “if the Christians are repatriated, they will likely face extreme punishments – including imprisonment, forced disappearances and torture.”
Chinese agents have already interrogated church members who have chosen to remain in the country, added Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC) which also supports the group.
“Despite various appeals, the asylum seekers’ application for protection in South Korea has been repeatedly denied,” VOMC told Worthy News.
The church recently discovered that their second appeal had been turned down, “prompting concerns that they may well be forced to return to China,” VOMC added.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has come under pressure to grant refuge to the group of believers.
Bob Fu, the founder, and director of the U.S.-based ChinaAid group, said several churches in Texas are willing to receive the congregation if resettlement is approved.
As the Christian refugees and their supporters await a decision, Fu remains hopeful: “We quietly await God’s great deeds.”
VOMC said it had urged Christians to pray for the church members seeking asylum.
Their ordeal comes at a time of reports of a crackdown on devoted believers in Communist-run China.
Authorities target especially churches and house groups operating outside state-sanctioned denominations, including the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church.
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