A group of Chinese Christians fled to Thailand to apply for refugee status after being denied in South Korea.
Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, a group of 60 Chinese Christians, fled from China's communist regime in 2019.
Chinese law required Christians to only worship at churches affiliated with institutions that were under the control of the Communist Party.
Although Chinese authorities tolerated independent "house churches" for decades, they were largely forced to shut down after Beijing intensified crackdowns on Christian churches.
A Modern-Day Exodus
Since 2014, Christians have already experienced persecution.
SHRC Pastor Pan Youngguang testified that police raided their church, took him in for questioning, and confiscated their computers and Bibles.
In 2018, Pan signed a public statement in which he criticized the Regulations on Religious Affairs.
As an effect, the police pressured his landlord to evict him. He and the church were forced to keep moving.
According to a report by the Indian Express, the church members were also repeatedly harassed by local authorities due to Beijing's intensified crackdown.
Dozens of Christians were also arrested.
In 2019, Hong Kong citizens began to protest leaders. This put the church under intense pressure.
Ultimately, this triggered their final decision to flee their home country.
"We knew the space would only become smaller for the Christian community," Pan said.
At this time, the group fled to Jeju Island in South Korea.
However, they have been living under the constant threat of religious persecution even after they left.
Finding Shelter in Korea
Despite having successfully escaped China, the group still received harassment from the Chinese government.
Their family members in China also received threats from the Ministry of State Security.
"The government, the police came and found my parents and intimidated them. They pressured us to come back immediately and not to believe in Christianity anymore," said Nie Yunfeng, a church member.
Apart from the continuous intimidation, church members were told by South Korean immigration lawyers that their chances of being granted refugee status were very slim.
Although South Korea is home to a large Christian population, only 1% of asylum seekers' applications were approved.
This prompted the group to reconsider their next best option.
"We knew if we kept staying in South Korea, we wouldn't be able to make it to our final destination," said Pan.
The group decided to go to Thailand and apply for refugee status with the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Risks Awaits the Chinese Christian Refugees in Thailand
Over the last few years, several Chinese dissidents have been deported back to their country while waiting for the UN to approve their status as refugees.
This served as an area of concern among Chinese asylum seekers.
Pan said that he and his members are well aware of the risks. Yet, they grabbed the opportunity since there was no future for them in South Korea.
Deportation was not the only thing that awaited them in Thailand.
Soon after they arrived, they noticed strangers following them.
According to a report by CBN News, the members are currently in different areas of Bangkok to avoid being tracked by Chinese police.
According to Patrick Poon, a visiting researcher at the Institute of Comparative Law at Japan's Meiji University, Chinese Christians are facing many issues as they wait for their refugee status.
He added that the UN needs to do more to ensure the safety of those who seek refuge in the country.
Despite living turbulent lives, the group still holds on to their faith.
One of the church elders, Xie Jianqing, expressed that they are thinking of their children's future.
Xie added that they are willing to pay the price so long as their children are allowed to know God and their education is not in the hands of the Communist Party.
"He will lead us through these issues. God always has the best plan and arrangement," he said.
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