A group of Christians that fled to South Korea from China are now headed to Thailand seeking asylum after being denied security in South Korea.
According to The Christian Post, members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church have been denied asylum multiple times since they fled from the Chinese city of Shenzhen in 2019 and 2020.
Pan Yongguange, the church’s pastor, says nearly 60 members of the church are hoping to submit their appeals for asylum in Thailand. The group is hoping for “refugee status.”
Church members are also looking at trying to gain refugee status in the U.S.
“We aren’t able to secure any status through legal processes in South Korea, and the US. also hasn’t resettled us,” Pastor Yongguange said.
Most recently, many of the church members were granted temporary tourist visas to Thailand. Those tourist visas are valid for 15 days.
According to reports, the church members could have stayed in South Korea to await appeals on their rejections, many said they are worried the process could take years.
Some have also said they believe Chinese officials are “harassing” them with phone calls and interrogations of family members still in China.
A report also said the Chinese government believes the church is an illegal operation. In 2018, the Chinese government banned Bible sales at online bookstores. In its explanation, the government said, Christian faith communities needed to “adhere to the director of localizing the religion, practice the core values of socialism, develop and expand the fine Chinese tradition and actively explore the religious thought with accords with China’s national circumstances.”
“This is dangerous, but it is an opportunity,” Yongguange said. “If we stayed in Jeju (South Korea), we would have had no chance.”
In August, the U.S.-based group ChinaAid said many Christians were living in small rented houses on an island near South Korea because South Korea had refused asylum to them.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Tawanlubfah
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.