63 Chinese Christians seeking asylum detained

A self-exiled congregation of Chinese Christians seeking United Nations protection from religious persecution faces potential deportation from Thailand, where police have detained the group along with two Americans who were assisting them.

Thai immigration police rounded up 63 members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church on Thursday, taking them from their hotel in the coastal city of Pattaya to a police immigration bureau facility, according to the church’s pastor and an American activist who has been supporting the congregation’s efforts to seek asylum.

An immigration court on Friday fined 30 adult members of the church the equivalent of $44 each for overstaying their visas, after which police transported the entire congregation—along with the two Americans—to a detention facility in the Thai capital of Bangkok, according to the pastor, Pan Yongguang, and one of the activists, Deana Brown.

The Americans weren’t accused of any wrongdoing, according to Mrs. Brown. It wasn’t clear what Thai authorities planned to do with the congregation in Bangkok, the pastor and the activist said.

“We don’t think that the danger has passed,” Mr. Pan said, adding that churchgoers remained worried about the possibility of deportation to China. “We hope that the U.N. refugee agency can help us get away from danger as soon as possible.”

The U.S. State Department said it is aware of the detentions and is “closely tracking” the group of people affected. “We coordinate closely with the Royal Thai Government to promote and protect the rights of all vulnerable groups,” and ensure respect for the principle of not returning asylum seekers to a country where they face the danger of persecution, a State Department spokesperson said.

Thailand’s Foreign Ministry didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here



Related Articles