By ICC’s Representative for North Korea
China has been cracking down on the Church with a “Sinicization” campaign. President Xi seeks to place religion under the Party’s control. ICC’s representative for North Korea recently spoke with a Korean missionary who was deported from China a year ago. He recounted how the Chinese government has deliberately deported hundreds of Korean missionaries, with a goal to curb Christianity and limit the number of North Korean defectors.
09/18/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – On January 20, 2017, 13 South Korean families who were residing in China as part of a mission group were deported from the country. The sudden crackdown against these Christians began when the mission group’s regional representative came to visit the area. As soon as the leader arrived at the Yanji station, security forces nabbed him at the spot.
All 13 families of the mission team were brought to the police station. Many of them were arrested from their homes, and the detainees included children and a senior in her 60s. At the station, the security agent showed them the website of their mission group and the members’ blogs with information on donation and supporting churches. An all-night investigation from the evening to the next morning soon followed.
As the investigation went on, the senior had to go to home as her blood pressure had increased due to the intense environment of the investigation. The children, at the age of three, six, and ten had to endure the all-night investigation.
The police slapped a charge of “being missionaries” to the 13 families and told them that was why they were investigated by the Chinese authorities. The officials also insisted that the families’ stay in China was illegal given they are missionaries, doing the works that the Chinese government does not want them to do. However, contrary to the police’s claim, the families were mainly teaching Bible to the North Koreans, who regularly visit China with Pyongyang’s permission. As their activities were not direct at proselytizing Chinese citizens, it was not against any Chinese law, according to the leader of the 13 families.
After the all-night investigation, the 13 families were given a week to sell all their assets, including cars and houses before their deportation. The investigation done by the police revealed the list of mission groups and their mission strategies. All of the family members’ passports were confiscated during this period. On January 20, 2017, the deadline of their stay, all 13 families were deported from China.
At the time, the head missionary was out of town and was able to avoid the arrest. However, between May and August 2017, the missionary came to know that his cell phone was tapped. His cell phone would lose signal from time to time, so he went to Samsung service center and learned that his phone was wired.
His freedom did not last too long. A year later, around the end of May, the Chinese authorities contacted the wife of the head missionary in Dandong for investigation. In the probe, they told her that the lists of the missionaries in different regions were sent from Beijing. She was asked what church she had attended in South Korea and why she did not register the Korean-Chinese church she went to in Dandong. They even knew about the past of the missionary and his wife –
She used to teach at a farmer’s school in South Korea.
This time, the missionary’s wife was forced to consent to a form which indicated that the government wanted the missionary’s wife to return to South Korea voluntarily. Though the woman insisted she needed at least a month of time, which was by the end of June, to wrap up everything at the school where she worked, they gave her only two weeks of time and ordered her to leave by June 14. The official told her that he was a mere enforcer who followed the deportation order from the central government. On June 14, both of the head missionary and her wife were deported.
Soon after, all the churches ministered by Korean-Chinese in Dandong, including the biggest church in Dandong where a Korean-Chinese pastor was ministering around 200 members, were shut down. One of the pastors’ wives made claims against the forced closure of the churches, and she was brought to the security bureau and sent to prison in Shenyang.
Later, the mission group’s contact with local Chinese found out that the security authorities of Yanji had been preparing to arrest the missionaries and end their activities since 2014. The Chinese government hacked the emails and registered phone calls between the members of the group. They were well aware of the presence of its members in China. Such act of tapping the communication is presumed to be an attempt of Xi Jinping’s government to demonstrate its power in the border area, where they see the admission of North Korean defectors as the root of the instability in the region.
Now living in Korea, the missionary still thinks often about his ministry in China. He asked ICC to pray for God to protect the people who are persecuted in North Korea and that they would be the workers of God when North Korea is open. He also remembers the missionaries who are still working discreetly in China. He asked for prayers for the security and well-being of these workers.
For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].