A group of Christians who fled religious persecution in China in 2019 and fled to Thailand are now seeking asylum in the United States as they face possible deportation by the Thai government.
About 60 members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, also known as the Mayflower Church, left China in October 2019 to escape religious persecution from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
They sought asylum in South Korea, but were denied after three years of court proceedings. In August 2022, the group moved to Thailand on tourist visas and applied for refugee status with the United Nations High Commissioner.
According to the US-based Christian rights group 21Wilberforce, the Thai government has allegedly refused to renew their tourist visas, prompting them to be deported to China, where their safety and freedom could be at risk. at risk.
21Wilberforce advocacy and training coordinator Trent Martin met with church members and pastors in Thailand last month to learn the extent of the CCP’s efforts to “silence” the church.
“I was surprised to hear firsthand that the Chinese Communist Party is willing and willing to silence a church that only wants to worship God peacefully in a free land,” Martin said. blog post.
He said the congregation had received threatening calls, messages and pressure from the CCP to return to the mainland even when they were already living in South Korea.
“Even while they are overseas in Thailand, they fear that the Chinese Communist Party will send agents to kidnap them or pressure Thai authorities to deport them,” he said. Told.
The group is currently awaiting UN refugee status recognition and has applied for asylum in the United States, but the U.S. government has yet to respond to the request, Martin said.
“Even though church groups and local resettlement groups in the Tyler, Texas area have pledged to financially and materially support the resettlement of all asylum seekers to the United States, the U.S. government has so far failed to It doesn’t offer them humanitarian parole or a route to asylum,” he said.
“We continue to ask the U.S. State Department to maintain its proud tradition of being a haven for those seeking freedom of worship, as the first Pilgrim did in 1620,” Martin added.
Mayflower Church on October 24, 2022 issued a statement Outline the reasons why Member States have decided to leave China.
Christian churches across China have faced “varying degrees of persecution, opposition and misunderstanding from government departments in their public worship and practice of faith” since the CCP’s Regulations on Religious Affairs came into force in February 2018. claimed to have.
“Such actions include the dismantling of crosses and spring rolls that are displayed hanging in Christian homes, coercing and threatening churches to join officially controlled religious groups, and forcing churches to hoist national flags. This includes, but is not limited to, singing songs praising the secular state or political religion, prohibiting minor Christian children from entering churches, and educating them about their faith. It will forbid churches and congregations to assemble freely, and outlaw it.”
“We believe that these unjust acts, which we have appealed to stop before relevant public institutions, have plunged Chinese society into a serious conflict between the church and the state.”
The church claimed that even after leaving China, especially after moving to Thailand, the CCP continued to threaten to persecute believers.
“Even if the persecution continues or intensifies, we will never betray our faith. must be the result of,” said the church.
according to Open Doors UK & Ireland, there are currently about 96.7 million Christians in China. The communist regime, officially atheist, refused to join the government-sanctioned Three-Self churches, arrested believers, and demolished house churches and raided houses for rewriting the Bible. are oppressing.
Gina Goh, Regional Manager for Southeast Asia at International Christian Concern (ICC) said: said in the report: “The Xi Jinping regime is afraid of many things. One thing is people with religious beliefs.
“This fear has led to crackdowns on churches, Uyghur ‘re-education camps’ and the demolition of Buddha statues. House churches are preparing for the worst crackdown since the Cultural Revolution,” Goh added.
The Chinese Communist Party removed more than 900 crosses from state-run churches in Anhui province in the first half of 2020, threatening to close them if they do not comply.
Jocelyn Neo contributed to this report.