Thai immigration officials have detained 28 Chinese adults and 35 Chinese children.
According to Christianity Today, the detainees were members of a Chinese house church. Human rights activists are worried they will be repatriated back to China.
The adults and children were members of Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, known as the “Mayflower church.” They left China in 2019 because of religious restrictions and then tried to gain asylum in South Korea. When they were rejected, they traveled to Thailand to apply for refugee status.
Bob Fu, head of ChinaAid, said the raid on the house church was imminent for the church members as last week, one member had been “acting strangely.”
That member admitted he had been working with China’s state security and had revealed the group’s location.
That member has not been seen since Chinese officials escorted him away from his home.
The Chinese congregation, led by Pastor Pan Yongguang, hid for a few days after the event but later returned to their hotel. On Thursday, about 20 Thai immigration police officers asked to see their passports and visas. Their documents expired in October 2022.
Deanna Brown of Freedom Seekers International, a non-profit group that helps persecuted Christians, had arrived at the hotel at the time of the arrest. Brown said the church members are worried about being sent back to China.
Immigration hearings began today. In previous cases, the Chinese government has repatriated asylum seekers from Thailand immediately after the trial.
If the church members are sent back to China, they could face retaliation, persecution and possible prison time.
“We urge the U.S. government to use all feasible tools at its disposal to ensure Mayflower Church members’ safety,” said Abraham Cooper, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
ChinaAid and other activist groups have asked the Biden administration to act on behalf of the 63 people and grant them immediate asylum.
“Pray that the right people in the U.S. government see their plight and allow Americans to rescue them– just give us that opportunity,” Brown said.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Igorshi
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.