An exiled Chinese Christian group left Thailand and arrived in the United States of America after they were detained for overstay in what became an international incident.
Our previous story:
A large group of Chinese nationals who fled China due to fears of persecution for their faith were arrested in Pattaya this week for overstaying their visas, a common crackdown in Thailand that normally leads to immediate deportation, but this case has captured major international media attention.
Now for the update:
Radio Free Asia reports that this group of Chinese were afraid that Thailand would deport them back to China, where they feared they could face persecution for their religious beliefs. They believed Chinese government agents were behind a push to find and arrest them for overstay in an attempt to return them to China.
The group had been recently arrested in Pattaya, Thailand, where they had been quietly trying to arrange formal passage to the US for months.
According to activists working with the Chinese exiles, an anonymous tip led to their arrest. These activist groups stated that the exiles had no desire to run afoul of Thailand’s laws and were only on overstay because of current rules for Chinese nationals that require a visit to their embassy for any visa renewal. The activist groups claimed this was impossible as they felt the moment the exiles entered the embassy they would be forced to return to China.
Meanwhile, after their arrest for overstay, Thai authorities met the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR and the American Embassy to work in conjunction to safely send them to the United States.
Radio Free Asia’s Mandarin Service confirmed with China Aid staff that 59 members of the 63 total left Thailand on Thursday (April 6th) after detention. Meanwhile, a family of four chose to stay in Thailand, although it was not clear as to why or what the next steps were for this family.
BenarNews reported that the American embassy in Bangkok has declined to comment. The spokeswoman for UNHCR Morgane Roussel-Hemery told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, that due to reasons of safety and protection they were unable to provide more details as to the release and transfer of the group.
In February when “Big Joke”, who goes by his nickname but is the Assistant Commissioner of Police Surachet Hakparn, visited Washington D.C., he met with New Jersey Republican Chris Smith who chairs the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. He asked Thai officials to take care of the Chinese Christians and provide them safety.
Big Joke was reportedly a major figure in assisting the group get passage to the US but also declined to give specific details. The Chinese embassy has remained silent on the matter as well.
The group were confirmed to have safely arrived in Texas according to activists and religious groups who have been working with the Chinese exiles and were active in pleading with the Thai government not to deport the group to China, claiming the group could be tortured and even face forced disappearance due to their religious views.
The Chinese nationals are expected to join a US faction of the Mayflower Church and be given special permission to stay in the United States as refugees.