Tags: China | US | NKorea | religion | Christian

US Christian Aid Worker Detained by China in Border Crackdown

Thursday, 20 Nov 2014 06:38 AM

An American aid worker long based near China's border with North Korea has been detained, his lawyer said Thursday, as Beijing intensifies a crackdown on Christian-run groups in the region.

The case of Peter Hahn comes months after Chinese authorities levelled espionage accusations against a Canadian couple active in helping send humanitarian aid to Beijing's isolated ally.

The detentions have raised alarm among overseas-based rights groups, which have warned that Christian aid workers are increasingly being targeted by China's ruling Communist Party leaders.

Hahn, 74, who is a Korean-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was detained Tuesday in Tumen, on the border with the North, his lawyer Zhang Peihong told AFP.

He has been accused of embezzlement and counterfeiting invoices, Zhang said. Tumen police did not respond to a request for comment.

Authorities this summer froze Hahn's bank accounts and barred him from leaving China, according to Chinese media accounts.

Hahn has been based in Tumen since the late 1990s, when he founded a Christian NGO aimed at helping Korean refugees. He set up a vocational school for local ethnic Korean teenagers in 2002 and also counts a bakery among his enterprises.

His detention comes amid a probe by authorities into Kevin Garratt and Julia Dawn Garratt, a Canadian couple suspected of "gathering and stealing intelligence materials."

The Christian couple run a coffee shop in the northeastern Chinese city of Dandong, on the border with North Korea, and have been active in helping send humanitarian aid to the impoverished country.

Kevin Garratt once told a Canadian congregation: "God said, in a prayer meeting, go to Dandong and I'll meet you there. We're trying to reach North Korea with God, with Jesus, and practical assistance."

Since August, the Garratts have reportedly been held without access to lawyers or family members, and the episode has strained Beijing's relations with Ottawa.

China's definition of state secrets can be very broad while North Korea is deeply suspicious of Christian proselytising activities, punishing them harshly.

At the same time China's Communist Party keeps a tight grip on religion out of fears it could challenge its grip on power, requiring followers to worship in places approved by the state and under government supervision.

Christian-run groups operating near the North Korean border had largely escaped scrutiny in the past, but the recent detentions are a signal that Chinese authorities are growing increasingly wary.

Since President Xi Jinping came to power, officials in the eastern province of Zhejiang have ordered the dismantling of churches and crosses on the grounds that they violate building codes.

Critics say that the demolitions are part of an orchestrated campaign to stem the growing

© AFP 2017

   
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An American aid worker long based near China's border with North Korea has been detained, his lawyer said Thursday, as Beijing intensifies a crackdown on Christian-run groups in the region.
China, US, NKorea, religion, Christian
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2014-38-20
Thursday, 20 Nov 2014 06:38 AM
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