01/26/2022 South Korea (International Christian Concern) – With thanks to an interview conducted by Radio Free Asia (RFA), we have learned that the members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church are due to have their appeal for asylum heard by South Korean courts, following an initial rejection by the lower courts last year.
As many may recall, the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, often referred to as the ‘Mayflower Church’ for its resemblance to those seeking religious freedom on the Mayflower voyage to the US, has been taking refuge on South Korea’s Jeju island since 2019. The unregistered church had begun to face harassment from Chinese government officials and police, as running a church outside of Chinese regulations is against Chinese law and religious guidelines. In an attempt to a better life for themselves and their children, a contingent of the congregation voted to leave China. However, after two years, their South Korean host has soured on their presence.
The congregation’s initial applications for asylum were rejected, and their appeal is expected to be heard by South Korea’s higher courts soon. If the congregation is denied by the Korean courts, they will be on a short timeline to leave Korea, or they will be living there illegally and fearing a possible removal back to China.
The expected outcome of this congregation’s case remains uncertain, as Chinese nationals are rarely approved for asylum status in South Korea. Some allege this to be a result of the South Korean government’s weariness of their communist neighbor – to accept refugees from China would be seen as a direct slight against the regional superpower. The congregation must also demonstrate a significant threat, and when dealing with a nation like China, the threatening party has tight control over the information. Given that the global community is preparing to tune in for the Beijing Olympics next month, it can be assumed that the world has not fully come to terms with the scale of persecution in China.
Christians are among many of the religious groups in China facing regular and often harsh religious persecution. Under the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping, China continues to demonstrate an open hostility toward religious minorities, meaning that the victims of persecution will continue to climb. Should this congregation be returned, it is expected that the CCP will have a close eye on them if they are not punished for their alleged crime. While the status of the Mayflower Church in Korea remains undecided, we should not assume these Christians are out of options, as other Christian groups have heard their call for help. RFA has reported that this group has also applied for asylum in the US; however, there has been no comment on the situation further.
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