A group of 60 Chinese Christian refugees in South Korea are liable to face extradition after courts rejected their asylum applications.
Multiple lower courts in South Korea have rejected asylum applications by church members. Their appeals are pending before the High Court.
The group belongs to 'Shenzhen Mayflower Church,' from Shenzhen city. About 30 members of the congregation have stayed behind in China and are said to face 'continued harassment by the state police."
Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that the 60 Christians led by their pastor came to Jeju island of South Korea in 2019 to avoid the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) repressive education policy and anti-religious propaganda.
"Our church would educate our children about our religious beliefs, and the police would come along and force them to enrol in school so they could be brainwashed," he said. "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," Pastor Pan Yongguang told the media.
Pastor Pan Yongguang said members were targeted after he co-signed a letter protesting against the CCP's new regulations on religions that triggered a recent crackdown on religious activities across China.
He told UCA News that he had been charged with subversion of state power, colluding with anti-China foreign forces and human trafficking because he took the believers out of China. The Chinese state security police have repeatedly threatened his mother, sister and brother.
The church members have also applied for asylum in the United States through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The agency said that it is unable to process their status from their office in Seoul.
An official from the South Korean Immigration Bureau on Jeju island told RFA that it could not comment on why the applications of Mayflower Church members have been declined.
Bob Fu, president of the US-based Christian rights group ChinaAid, said the South Korean government is wary of the CCP and is eager to avoid any conflict with Beijing over the asylum seekers.
"Only 0.4 percent of asylum applications from Chinese nationals have been successful in the past," Fu said. "South Korea is effectively being held hostage by the CCP."
Pastor Pan fears that if their applications are rejected again, they will become illegal immigrants in South Korea 14 days after the rejection.
He said that the asylum seekers had received free Covid-19 vaccines and none has been infected so far.
With uncertainty looming over them, the asylum seekers are living in fear.
"If we become illegal immigrants here, then the South Korean government can't offer us protection, and we are in danger," Pastor Pan added.
Communist China ranks 17th among 50 countries in the world where Christians face severe forms of persecution, according to the World Watch List 2022 by US-based Open Doors.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.