Scores of Protestants expelled near North Korean border as tensions rise over THAAD missile defense.
In the past few months, China has expelled dozens of South Korean missionaries from Jilin, a northeastern province that neighbors North Korea.
"Chinese authorities raided the homes of the missionaries, citing a problem with their visas, and told them to leave," one human rights activist and pastor told Agence France-Presse (AFP). He said that most were on tourist or student visas.
“[It] was very exceptional,” one anonymous source told the Financial Times. “The missionaries were keeping a low profile. In the past, most missionaries were given a month to leave since their activities in China were not harming the country. This time, it was different.”
There are about 500 officially registered South Korean missionaries in China, though some say the actual number could be as high as 2,000. Many gather in the northeast, drawn by the poverty of China and the proximity of North Korea. Close to the border, the language and culture are heavily Korean.
Pastor Kim Hee-Tae told AFP that 20 percent of the expelled Koreans were assisting North Korean refugees, and that 40 of the defectors had been sent back across the border.
A spokesman for the Korea World Mission Association called the group ejection “unprecedented.”
China gave no reason for the expulsions. While some observers pointed to newly-tightened restrictions on Christians, most blamed China’s opposition to Seoul’s plan to build an American missile shield.
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