The United States State Department has granted 63 Chinese members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church asylum, after they were arrested by Thailand’s Immigration police for overstaying their visas 2 weeks ago.
The Associated Press said that the 63 Chinese Christians had arrived in Dallas on Friday night and would move to the Texas city of Tyler. Rashad Hussain, the US representative at large for the Office of International Religious Freedom, met the group, according to reports.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the members of the Shenzhen-based church left China three years ago because of what they called “increasing government persecution.”
The group of 31 adults and 32 children came to Thailand last year on tourist visas. They had left South Korea because their chances of getting refuge there were slim. In September of last year, they went to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees office in Bangkok to apply for refugee status. They hoped that would let them stay in the country while they waited for the United States to look into their asylum claim.
But on March 31, police and immigration officers in Chon Buri’s Bang Lamung district picked up the 63 Chinese people, some of whom were children. Reports said that the group couldn’t get their visas renewed in Thailand because Chinese citizens have to go to the Chinese Embassy.
Pattaya Provincial Court held a hearing on April 3 for 30 of the adults who had been in the kingdom too long. As the UN refugee agency had asked, they were let out on bail. The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security took care of the kids.
The WSJ said that the US State Department talked with the Thai government to make sure that the group would be sent to the US instead of China.
The Persecution of Chinese Christians
Meanwhile, Dr. Ewelina U. Ochab, a lawyer and human rights activist, said in an interview with CTN News that China is treating Christians like North Korea, and it is hard to know how bad the discrimination and persecution is because information is being controlled more and more.
In the past few years, media outlets all over the world have reported on the systematic violation of human rights in the Xinjiang region in the west of the PRC. Experts say that up to a million Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities were held in illegal “re-education camps.” Beijing denies it.
Dr. Ochab, on the other hand, said that all religions and religious groups in China face problems, not just Muslims. These problems include discrimination and oppression, which are illegal under international law.
The co-founder of the Genocide Response Coalition said, “This issue needs more attention and a more complete response.” (CGR).
Under Xi Jinping, the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the government is making it harder for religious groups to meet. This is part of a drive to “sinicize” religion, or give it “Chinese characteristics.” Officials in China said that the West was trying to take over China by using Christianity.
The media in China talked about what the government did to Christians in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, a city that used to be called “Chinese Jerusalem” because it had so many churches. Since 2013, at least 1,200 crosses have been taken down in Zhejiang.
It is said that the Sanjiang Church in Wenzhou has been torn down.
Christians in poor areas were being forced to take down crosses and pictures of Jesus from their walls and put up pictures of Xi or Chairman Mao Zedong instead. In 2017, the South China Morning Post wrote about these kinds of things happening in Jiangxi province in southern China.
Open Doors, an international Christian non-profit group, released its annual report in January. It says that 360 million Christians are persecuted and discriminated against around the world, which is every seventh Christian.
In 50 countries, people have been persecuted and treated unfairly. North Korea is the country where these things happen the most.
Christians also go through hard times in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, and Pakistan. This year, China was placed 16th, and it was thought that there were 96.7 million Christians in Xi Jinping’s country.