LATINCONTENTEDITORIAL/ REUTERS/ GETTY
China expelled more than 90 South Korean missionaries for helping North Korea defectors
Beijing reportedly expelled more than 60 South Korean Christians for engaging in “missionary activity”, which is against China’s strict laws on religion.
One source said the missionaries were working with North Korean defectors in China’s northeastern Jilin province.
A missionary who was arrested and later released accused China of tracking bank accounts and placing suspected traitors under surveillance to find out who is helping the defectors.
On the surface, China is restricting illegal mission activities, but they are also tracing bank accounts and investigating whether or not people helped North Korean defectors residing in China
The missionary told South Korean newspaper KMIB: "On the surface, China is restricting illegal mission activities, but they are also tracing bank accounts and investigating whether or not people helped North Korean defectors residing in China."
Days later, a South Korean government official said China had expelled 32 South Korean Christian missionaries
According to South Korean media, the missionaries were based in China's northeastern Yanji region near the border with North Korea.
Many had worked in the region for more than a decade.
It comes as a report by China Aid warned the threat of Christian persecution has “reached a new height”, with believers forced to conform to the Chinese Communist Party’s agenda or face jail.
Both North Korea and China have come under fire for their treatment of Christians.
President Xi Jinping has sought to bring religion under state control
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President Xi Jinping has sought to bring religion under state control with a crackdown on worshippers pressuring churches to become part of the government-run Three-Self Patriotic Movement.
In a flagrant breach of the UN Convention, China, a long-time ally of North Korea, continues to send North Koreans back to Pyongyang claiming the defectors are not refugees.
A report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom found China "accounts from North Korean defectors indicate individuals caught trying to defect or forcibly repatriated from China are severely punished, particularly those believed to have interacted with missionaries or engaged in religious activities".
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China continues to send North Koreans back to Pyongyang
Defections from North Korea from January to October 2016 are up 18 per cent compared to the same period in 2015.
It is thought some 1,000 South Korean missionaries are working in China to help North Korean defectors.
But the latest expulsions have raised concerns that China is hitting out against South Korea’s plan to host a US missile defence system.
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A South Korean government official told Reuters there was no indication of a direct link between the expulsions and tension over the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system.
But with THAAD capable of reaching Chinese territory, some believe Beijing is taking action against Seoul.
South Korean companies have reported business has been halted with construction projects suspended and performances by South Korean artists cancelled.
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