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EXCLUSIVE: GOP Rep Demands State Department Rescue Chinese And American Christians Detained In Thailand

[Photo courtesy of ChinaAid]

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Philip Lenczycki Investigative Reporter
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A Republican congressman is calling on the State Department to intervene on behalf of Chinese and American Christians detained by Thai police, according to a letter obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Thai police arrested 63 members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church, also known as the Mayflower Church, for overstaying their visas during an early morning raid in Pattaya, Thailand, on Thursday. They are now preparing to deport the Chinese congregants back to China, where they face imprisonment and likely torture, ChinaAid, a Christian human rights group, told the DCNF. (RELATED: Over 60 Christian Dissidents Detained In Thailand Facing Imprisonment, Torture If Deported To China)

Texas Republican Rep. Lance Gooden told Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the State Department should be “doing everything in its power to ensure these Chinese Christians and Americans are not faced with repatriation and, consequently, interrogation and abuse,” in a letter shared with the DCNF on Friday.

Christian Fugitives Letter … by Daily Caller News Foundation

“The situation is deeply alarming, as two Americans find themselves entangled in this crisis, potentially facing unjust and intolerable punishments,” Gooden’s letter states. “It is our utmost responsibility to ensure that the rights of American citizens are staunchly protected when they are abroad. Neither the two Americans nor the Mayflower Church should have to endure such threats to their lives and liberty as a result of religious persecution.”

During an early morning raid, Thai police arrested Mayflower Church members as well as Deana Brown, 68, and Stacy Nichols, 51, and confiscated their passports, Brown told the DCNF.

Thai police may have learned the location of the Mayflower Church members after one congregant was coerced into cooperating by Chinese police, ChinaAid told the DCNF.

Brown, who is the founder of Freedom Seekers International, told the DCNF that she wishes to help the Mayflower Church resettle in the U.S.

In October 2019, the Mayflower Church, led by Pastor Pan Yongguang, fled religious persecution at the hands of the CCP. After a vote, the church decided to resettle in Jeju Island, South Korea, where a travel visa would not be required for Chinese citizens, Pastor Pan told the DCNF in March 2022.

However, after trying for several years, the South Korean government did not ultimately grant the members of the Mayflower Church asylum and so in August 2022 the church decided to try for asylum again in Thailand, according to ChinaAid.

“Under no circumstances should the members of Mayflower Church be allowed to face persecution again in China, and the Biden administration must take immediate action to ensure their safety,” Gooden’s letter states. “If these Christians were deported back to China, they would face baseless criminal charges, prison, and torture.”

The State Department declined to comment.

“As a general matter, we do not comment on communications with Congress,” a spokesperson told the DCNF.

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Philip Lenczycki

Daily Caller News Foundation investigative reporter, political journalist, and China watcher. Twitter: @LenczyckiPhilip