Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church members who fled to Jeju Island and await rescue admit, “There’s no way back for us”



Friday, June 11, 2021

U.S. diplomat in South Korea visited congregation in Jeju Island. 
(Photo: ChinaAid)

(Jeju Island, South Korea—June 11, 2021) Persecution by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities led to approximately 60 members (30 children) of Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church in southern China currently seeking asylum in South Korea. Today, although the road ahead may seem painful and hazy at times, 43-year-old Pan Yongguang, the Church’s pastor and former doctor, tells members that every suffering they experience is a part of God’s plan. “There’s no way back for us,” he said.

ChinaAid currently provides appropriate, applicable assistance as Reverend Bob Fu, PhD., president of ChinaAid supports the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church’s decision to flee from China. Regarding its current situation, Dr. Fu said:

We will do our best to urge the Korean and American governments to work together to protect the safety and resettlement of all 60 persecuted Brothers and Sisters now exiled in Jeju Island.

Several large churches in Texas report they are willing to join hands and receive the entire Church so Brothers and Sisters can live and worship there freely.

We quietly await God’s great deeds.

After religious policies tightened under Xi Jinping’s leadership, Shenzhen, once a model open city, dramatically changed from what it used to be. Since China officially passed the newly revised Regulation on Religious Affairs, the degree of freedom for Christianity dropped significantly. Consequently, Churches in Shenzhen experienced the immense pressure of religious persecution. Two years ago, during the fall of 2019, the believers of a reformed church in Shenzhen squeezed into a rented office and discussed whether to remain in China or flee to South Korea. According to Wall Street Journal reports, the discussion lasted more than three hours.

More than 50 believers debated whether to leave or remain in China. Some Church members wanted to flee China to ensure their children could avoid the CCP’s “brainwashing” education, … and to continue their non-publicized religious schooling. Some other members worried about finding jobs in a foreign country or being forced to return to China. A week after the Church’s discussion, members gathered once again to vote. An overwhelming 56 members voted in favor of moving, while 17 voted to remain in China.

As Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, established in 2012, remains unregistered, the CCP considers it illegal. Some Church members who have experienced harassment for many years felt that the pressure had reached an unbearable level.

Tourists who hold Chinese passports may enter Jeju Island and obtain a visa upon arrival without having to complete the tedious application process. Therefore, the 60 members decided to flee to Jeju island collectively. Now that they successfully arrived in Jeju Island, a popular South Korean tourist attraction, however, they face a myriad of new challenges.

Many of the exiled Christians struggle to maintain their livelihood during this long asylum application process. Officials have rejected each application at least once. Although the exiled Church members may remain in Jeju Island as they pursue legal challenges, the process can take several years. The chances of approval, however, seem slim.

The case regarding the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church congregation fleeing en masse gained the attention of U.S. diplomats. At the end of May, one diplomat visited the congregation. Minister Pan states that the Church wishes to resettle in the U.S. At this point, it remains unclear whether Washington will support the Church’s proposal.

The U.S. Embassy in Seoul indicated that they have already discussed the Church’s situation with South Korean officials. Nevertheless, South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on this matter.

Currently, the Church uses a venue a local Church provided as their place of worship.

Due to the language barriers, many church members earn a living working at menial farm jobs such as picking oranges or other crops. Because of the uncertainty they face, some families want to return to China, even if doing so means having to deal with penalties. Based on precedents, several church members who returned to China faced retaliation from CCP authorities. Officials raided their houses and restricted their movements.

In March while on Jeju island, some Church members began to receive strange calls. They viewed these calls as attempts to warn them to return to China. The South Korean Embassy in Guangzhou called one of the Church members asking him if he overstayed in Jeju island on a tourist visa. The Embassy representative said that they routinely call people suspected of overstaying to clarify the situation.

Pastor Pan said that he tells members that every suffering they experience is a part of God’s plan. "There’s no way back for us," he stressed.

After religious policies tightened under Xi Jinping’s leadership, Shenzhen, once a model open city, dramatically changed from what it used to be. Since China officially passed the newly revised Regulation on Religious Affairs, the degree of freedom for Christianity dropped significantly. Consequently, Churches in Shenzhen experienced the immense pressure of religious persecution. Two years ago, during the fall of 2019, the believers of a reformed church in Shenzhen squeezed into a rented office and discussed whether to remain in China or flee to South Korea. According to "Wall Street Journal" reports, the discussion lasted more than three hours.

More than 50 believers debated whether to leave or remain in China. Some Church members wanted to flee China to ensure their children could avoid the CCP’s “brainwashing” education, … and to continue their non-publicized religious schooling. Some other members worried about finding jobs in a foreign country or being forced to return to China. A week after the Church’s discussion, members gathered once again to vote. An overwhelming 56 members voted in favor of moving, while 17 voted to remain in China.

As Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, established in 2012, remains unregistered, the CCP considers it illegal. Some Church members who have experienced harassment for many years felt that the pressure had reached an unbearable level.

ChinaAid set up a special relief project for those who want to provide assistance and donations to the Holy Reformed Church.

No matter where these Christians end up settling, Isaiah 43:19 uplifts and encourages us:


See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up;
do you not perceive it?
I am making a way
in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
  

~ Gao Zhensai, ChinaAid Special Correspondent



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Now thanks be to God 
who always leads us in triumph in Christ, 
and through us diffuses 
the fragrance of His knowledge 
in every place.
                                                                       ~ 2 Corinthians 2:14 (NKJV)




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