Chinese Christians seek refuge in Thailand after asylum denial from South Korea

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by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) – A congregation of Christians escaping government persecution in China are applying for refugee status in Thailand after being denied asylum in South Korea, DW reports. In its efforts to impose “Sinicization” on the country, China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been engaged in a formidable crackdown on independent evangelical churches that will not register with the state-controlled Three-Self Patriotic movement.

The entire membership of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church (SHRC) left China for South Korea in 2018 after years of harassment and constant threats from the ruling CCP, DW reports.

“Police raided our gathering place, took me in for questioning, and confiscated our computers and Bibles since 2014,” SHRC pastor Pan Yongguang told DW. “We knew the space would only become smaller for the Christian community, and authorities would increase the pressure on us,” Pan said. “We made up our mind and left China for Jeju Island in South Korea [in 2018].”

Hoping to start a new life, the congregation arrived in South Korea in December 2019, DW said. However, the CCP continued to harass the church, issuing threats against them through China’s Ministry of State Security. “The Chinese embassy in South Korea called me twice and asked me to pick up a package over there,” church member Jing-jing Chen told DW. “Nobody sent anything to me, so I suspected it to be a trap. Chinese state security agents also kept asking my parents about when I would return to China.”

In any event, the South Korean government has only granted asylum to 1% of those who seek it and has not granted the church members refugee status – leaving them in a state of limbo, DW said. “We knew if we kept staying in South Korea, we wouldn’t be able to make it to our final destination, and we were done living without legal identities in a country,” Pan told DW. “We decided to go to Thailand and apply for refugee status with the United Nations Refugee Agency.”

The church members moved to Thailand on tourist visas a month ago but remain in a precarious position: in recent years, the Thai government has sent Chinese dissidents awaiting UN approval of their refugee status back to China. Moreover, the CCP has tracked the church members down and continues to harass them, following them and taking pictures of them. Nevertheless, Pan said: “We are well aware of the potential risks in Thailand, but since there is no future for us in South Korea, Thailand is an opportunity for our members.

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