HomeAsian AmericansChristian Chinese refugees resettle in Texas, fleeing persecution

Christian Chinese refugees resettle in Texas, fleeing persecution

After a seven-year quest, a group of Chinese Christian refugees fleeing religious persecution in China has found a new home in East Texas. Their arrival is part of a collective effort from multiple human rights organizations and U.S. representatives, reported CBS 19

The South Springs Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas hosted a welcome event on Friday for 63 members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church (SHRC), according to CBS 19. The refugees finally made it to the U.S. with help from organizations like Freedom Seekers International and ChinaAid intervened. 

“We’re so excited for them to be in the U.S. to practice their religious freedom, to practice what they believe peacefully,” said Jonathan Dingler, the communications director for ChinaAid, in an interview with The Dallas Morning News. “And we know that these Christians are going to fit into our society … They’re excited to do ministry here in America and excited to contribute to our culture and society as a whole.”

Founded in 2012, members of the SHRC, also known as the Mayflower Church, fled to South Korea in late 2019 after years of government harassment, The Dallas Morning News reports. Unable to gain asylum, the congregation had to relocate to Thailand. 

The congregation lived in a coastal city called Pattaya for a year before Thailand authorities arrested 28 adults and 32 children for visa violations, Human Rights Watch (HRW) disclosed. During their week-long detention in late March, the HRW issued a statement that warned Thailand authorities of the grim risks the Christian group will face if deported back to China. 

“In China under President Xi Jinping, leaders and members of ‘house churches’ that refuse to join official churches increasingly face harassment, arbitrary arrests, and imprisonment,” Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, noted in the statement. “Thai authorities need to recognize the grave dangers facing Christians back in China and under no circumstances force them to return.”

The HRW also claimed that Thailand allegedly has a history of collaborating with Chinese authorities to target members of political, religious, and ethnic groups escaping persecution, despite being prohibited by international law from doing so.

Deana Brown, executive director of Freedom Seekers International, told CBS 19 she witnessed the immigration procedures in Thailand firsthand. The detainment, according to Brown, occurred due to a policy that requires Chinese citizens to show their passports at a Chinese embassy in order to renew their visa. 

“I was in a jail there with them the day before I’d gone just to visit them and I think it’s by God’s design,” Brown described in an interview with CBS 19. “The two hours after I got there, the Thai immigration came at that time looking for their visas and passports.”

But since the SRHC left China, the group has drawn support from multiple rights groups and U.S. officials like Bob Fu with China Aid and Texas Congressman Nathaniel Moran.  This joint effort freed the Christian Chinese asylum seekers and Brown from Bangkok’s detention center, CBS 19 revealed. 

“They are called Mayflower Church and we’re glad that (they) finally reached their true destiny,” Fu told CBS 19. “The modern Mayflower to the U.S.A. soil and they have their vision to continue to be together and build their own Christian community.”

Rights groups say the church is one of the first known to flee China as a large group, according to The Dallas Morning News. However, it’s not known if the group entered the U.S. under humanitarian parole or are supported legally by immigration attorneys. 

All sixty-three members will be hosted by churches in Texas to provide housing living expenses, and help settling in. Pastor Pan Yongguang of SHRC expressed his faith and thanks to the church allies and rights organizations that supported his congregation seeking asylum. 

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  1. A group of Chinese people spent seven years on a quest for “freedom” only to land in Texas? Do they know they arrived in a state that is trying to block them from owning property, deny them from attending university, suppressing their voting power, and much more just for being Chinese? At least they didn’t go to Florida.


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