by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – All 63 Chinese Christian members of the asylum-seeking Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church have been taken into police custody in Thailand, after overstaying the tourist visas on which they sought refugee status from persecution in China, the Associated Press reports.
Detained after a court appearance in the city of Pattaya, the congregation were taken to an immigration detention center in Bangkok, where their legal status and future remains uncertain.
Led by their pastor, the entire Shenzhen church left their home for South Korea on tourist visas in 2019, alarmed at the harassment and organized persecution of Christians by China’s ruling Communist Party. The congregation moved on to Thailand on new tourist visas in 2022, once their application for asylum was denied by the South Korean government.
Afraid of persecution by authorities in China, and hoping to receive asylum from either the Thai or the United States governments, the church stayed on in Thailand for several months past the expiry date of their tourist visas, AP reports.
Advocates on the church’s behalf are calling on Thailand not to send the congregation back to China.
“Thai authorities need to recognize the grave dangers facing Christians back in China and under no circumstances force them to return,” the New York based Human Rights Watch organization said in a statement Saturday.
“If Thailand determines that the 63 Christian Chinese cannot stay, then they should be permitted to seek protection in another country,” Human Rights Watch said. “Rights-respecting governments should urgently step up to express their willingness to receive these asylum seekers at risk.”
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