02/11/2017, 13.15
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Scores of Protestant missionaries from S Korea arrested and expelled

At least 32 have been expelled. Four more were arrested in recent days. They helped defectors from North Korea. In the past, local authorities turned a blind eye on their activities; now they forcefully apply rules on religious activities. Beijing is retaliating against Seoul’s decision to deploy THAAD.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – Scores of South Korean Protestant missionaries have been expelled from northeastern China following a series of raids by the police. The South Korean government today confirmed that some missionaries were arrested.

According to some analysts, these expulsions – which are quite unusual – are connected with rising tensions between Beijing and Seoul over the latter’s decision to deploy an anti-missile system in co-operation with the United States.

At least 32 Christian missionaries were forced out of China in December and January. The Christians were evangelising but also helping fugitives from North Korea to make the perilous journey across the Yalu River, which separates China from North Korea.

Although China bans foreign missionary work, local authorities have always turned a blind eye on South Koreans, partly because rescuing defectors reduces social problems, but because of substantial bribes to local officials.

However, since new rules on religious activities were adopted last October, Christian communities have come under tighter control.

In addition, Seoul’s decision to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) platform has raised fears in Beijing that the anti-missile system is aimed not only at Pyongyang, but also at China.

In the past few months China has adopted an array of retaliatory measures against South Korean products. Concerts and appearances by famous South Korean actors and singers on Chinese TV have also been axed.

Meanwhile, the South Korean Foreign Ministry announced this morning that a South Korean missionary, identified only by his surname Kim, was arrested two days ago in Yanji, near the Chinese border, on charges of violating immigration laws.

Radio Free Asia earlier reported that Chinese authorities had arrested four Christian missionaries in Yanji, including a Korean-American and two Chinese.

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