East Texas churches, non-profit group, ask U.S. government to help resettle Chinese church members
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - There is a plea to the federal government right now; East Texas churches, along with the help of a non-profit group called Freedom Seekers International, are asking the U.S. government to resettle close to sixty members of a Chinese church, known as Mayflower Church.
Those church members are in limbo in Thailand. KLTV contributor and former Sports Director Ryan Peterson recently spent time with the refugees, and says the church leaders told him that East Texas might be their last hope for freedom.
Pastor Pan Yongguang enjoys a meal with his wife and children on a quiet evening in JeJu, South Korea. The Chinese national and father of two has the weight of an entire church body on his shoulders. 56 men, women and children are following Pan’s lead in a journey for freedom.
“The people just like me have no legal work, no legal status, no place in the society. They may even face the danger of being imprisoned at any time and face the threat of property and life,” the pastor said.
It’s been nearly 3 years since Pan and other leaders of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, now known as the Mayflower Church, decided to flee China. The arrest and imprisonment of Pan’s friend and fellow Pastor Wang Yi, prompted the Mayflower Church to leave everything behind.
“First of all they established an unfair law to reject and suppress the various religions in China,” Pan’s friend and fellow pastor, Wang Yi said.
A woman in the church added, ”The Chinese government persecuted us because of our beliefs. They don’t allow us to congregate and they don’t allow our kids to go to school in our church.”
South Korean lawyer Sunny Jung, who has represented the Mayflower church, told us it’s nearly impossible for Chinese refugees to be granted asylum for religious persecution in Korea.
“Unfortunately in Korea it’s very hard to be admitted as a refugee by the court. They have to have proof of the threat of life,” Jung said. “We will not win the case.”
Since Ryan’s group met with the 57 church members weeks ago in Korea, the men, women and children have relocated to Thailand. Jung and other advisors believed it was safer to leave Korea and improved the church’s chances of avoiding kidnapping by undercover representatives of the Chinese government.
China Aid Founder Bob Fu understands the dangers of a return to China.
“We have seen the Communist Party’s consulate in JeJu Island, have called the family members of the Mayflower Church in JeJu to ask them to go back to China. Calling them as traitors, like endangering national security,” he said. “Everyone concluded we would be handed over to the Chinese prison.”
More than 25 years ago, Fu spent two months in a Chinese prison for ‘illegal evangelism.’ Bob and his wife Heidi were eventually able to flee the country and were granted refugee status in the United States by President Bill Clinton in 1996.
Fu says the danger for The Mayflower Church is real and imminent.
Since April of this year, there have been at least 30 documented threats from the Chinese Communist Party targeting members of the Mayflower Church. There are fears these threats could continue in Thailand.
“Every one of them, even including the children, will be arrested if they are forced to be back to China,” Bob said.
Jung and Fu believe the United States is likely the church’s only hope.
“If the US government or President Biden or Secretary Blinken are serious in caring about religious freedom in China and are really serious in helping those persecuted faithful like the Mayflower church, tomorrow they can just make a decision with the available mechanism for the refugee resettlement to bring the whole Mayflower Church to come over,” Bob said.
A 12-month resettlement plan is being formalized with plans for private funding at no cost to the U.S. government, but the State Department has been unwilling to grant asylum.
For now, Pastor Pan and his church must wait and pray for a miracle, saying, “we know the persecution will get worse and worse.”
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