Homeless, Jobless, Stateless, but Not Faithless: Chinese Christian Exiles Denied Asylum, Now Flee to Thailand
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A group of Chinese exiles fleeing from religious persecution are seeking asylum in Thailand after being denied refuge in South Korea.
Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, a group of 60 Chinese Christians, said they fled the communist regime in 2019 to escape religious persecution.
"Political pressure is rising, and there's more and more ideological control," said Pastor Pan Yongguang, whose church has been on the run for years. "The persecution is growing worse."
"They didn't want us to teach our children the Bible, and children are banned from attending church. This went against our faith and our consciences," he told Union of Catholic Asian News, earlier this year.
He added that he was constantly questioned by Chinese officials, but his congregation came under intense pressure in 2019, when citizens in Hong Kong began to protest leaders.
Pan asked members to vote on whether or not to stay in the country.
"At the time, I thought maybe we could return after things settled down," said Nie Yunfeng, who joined the church months after its founding. "I never imagined things would get this bad."
Earlier this week, the group, which is nicknamed Mayflower Church, appealed to the United Nations refugee office in Bangkok for asylum in Thailand.
They previously appealed to South Korea, which is home to a large Christian population, but were denied several times. Government statistics show less than 1% of asylum seekers were granted refuge there last year.
Members are currently spread throughout Bangkok, afraid of being tracked by Chinese police.
Chinese nationals Li Bin Bin and his wife Nie Yunfeng sing religious songs with their family in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. Li and Nie are part of a group belonging to a Chinese church that are seeking refuge in Thailand, saying they face state harassment and possible deportation. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Yongguang said he and his congregants have been stalked, harassed, and received threatening calls and messages since fleeing.
"At one point or another, our families back in China, every one of them, were summoned and threatened by state security," Yongguang said.
"The government, the police came and found my parents and intimidated them. They pressured us to come back immediately and not to believe Christianity anymore – because they know I'm a member of the church," Nie Yunfeng, a church member, told ChinaAid. "And my father even went as far as to say it's because of your faith in Christianity that you've ended up in this mess."
The Associated Press found evidence that Chinese officials were ordered to investigate the church.
Officers found Pan's brother, sisters, and mother and accused him of "treason," "collusion with foreign forces" and "subversion of state power."
As CBN News has reported, churches in the U.S. are working together to bring "Mayflower Church" to the country.
"Thousands of individuals will offer shoes, microwaves and blankets and linen," Deana Brown, president and founder of Freedom Seekers International told CBN News. "They will not have a need when they get here."
Until then, the group remains stateless, jobless, and homeless, but not without their faith.
"We're thinking of our children's future. We refuse to put their education in the hands of the Communist Party, to give them an atheist education, and to turn their backs on God," said Xie Jianqing, a church elder. "So we're willing to pay this price, to lead our children to flee China to allow them to keep going to church school and to know God."
"Although we don't know what we'll encounter in the future, what our God gives us is the best. He will lead us through these issues, God always has the best plan and arrangement," he added.
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