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China arrests Korean pastors

HONG KONG (SE): Two Protestant pastors from South Korea in the northeastern province of Liaoning have been arrested in China and accused of aiding and abetting refugees from North Korea to flee into Chinese territory.

Radio Free Asia reported that while neither pastor has been named, one was arrested along with his wife in February as they tried to board a plane for South Korea from Qingdao in the eastern province of Shandong, while the second was detained at a hotel in the northeastern city of Qinhuangdao.

Both wives have since been released, but the two men remain in police detention.

Peter Chung, from the human rights group, Justice for North Korea, said their families have hired lawyers to represent them, now that charges against them look set to be taken to trial.

“The cases are now with the state prosecutor’s office; all the files are with the prosecutor now,” Chung told Radio Free Asia on April 5. “This was approved on March 29.”

He said, “Their lawyers have already met with them a number of times and they both seem to be in good health.”

A Chinese rights lawyer, who declined to be named, said the two pastors had been charged with organising illegal crossing of a national border, a charge that carries a relatively light sentence in view of the humanitarian intentions behind their actions.

“I think they are trying to treat them in a friendly manner, bearing in mind political considerations, because they are foreigners,” the lawyer said. “They will be dealt with a bit more leniently.”

He added, “It is likely that they will be deported before sentencing, or even after it, but not have to serve it,” he said.

China describes North Koreans fleeing political persecution in their home country as economic migrants and usually reacts by returning them to North Korean soil.


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