According to supporters, more than 60 members of a Chinese Christian church are in detention in Thailand. This is a raising concern that they may be sent to their home country. Whereas they may face persecution.
Deana Brown, one of two American supporters detained alongside, Thai officials detained the 63 church members. Many of whom are children.
Col. Tawee Kutthalaeng, head of the Pattaya-area Nong Prue police station, said 32 adult Chinese nationals charged for overstaying their visas. But no children were accused. According to him, the two American residents are not arrested.
Members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, also called the Mayflower Church, came to Thailand in 2022 seeking asylum. The current status of their request was not immediately clear.
They fled China in 2019, claiming that government security forces were persecuting their members. And originally settled on South Korea’s Jeju Island. They left South Korea for Thailand. Meetings with local and US authorities revealed that their chances of finding refuge there are slim.
Brown, CEO of Freedom Seekers International, a Texas-based organization whose mission statement states that it aims to rescue “the most severely persecuted Christians in hostile and restrictive countries”. The group informed that a court date would be assigned later Friday.
According to Brown, she is working to resettle the church members in Tyler, Texas. Where her organization is located, but they have visa issues in Thailand. She claimed she and the other American, a nurse, were held. Because they were present when the church members were apprehended.
The group consider renewing their visas. They are informed of a new requirement. That any Chinese resident renewing a visa in Thailand must first report to the Chinese Embassy.
“We knew nobody could get their visas when they told us that,” said Brown, who was permitted to keep her phone while in detention.
The Chinese Embassy in Bangkok’s press section did not answer the phone. And the embassy did not reply quickly to an e-mailed request for comment.
The US Embassy stated that it had no direct comment on the matter.
Chinese church members informed reporters upon their arrival in Thailand. That they had been stalked, harassed, and received threatening calls and messages while in South Korea. They claimed that relatives in China were called, interrogated, and intimidated.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry stated at the time that the issue was “not a diplomatic question” and declined to comment further.
Christians in China are officially permitted to worship only in churches affiliated with Communist Party-controlled religious groups. But the authorities have long tolerated unregistered “house churches.” They have tens of millions of followers, probably more than the official groups.