About 30 to 70 missionaries have been expelled by China in South Korea’s Jilin province in what is being called an “unprecedented” ejection, according to reports.
“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).
Most of the missionaries were on tourist or student visas. Pastor Kim Hee-Tae told the AFP that 20 percent of the expelled Koreans were helping North Korean refugees, and of those refugees, 40 defectors had been sent back across the border.
“The missionaries were keeping a low profile,” an anonymous source told the Financial Times. “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.”
The Chinese government has not released a reason for the expulsions, but many believe it is due to the restrictions on Christians and because of China’s opposition to Seoul’s plans to build the U.S. THAAD radar shield.
According to estimates, there are some 500 officially registered South Korean missionaries in China. Many work in the northeast near the border of North Korea to help North Korean defectors.