The asylum-seekers arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Friday (Apr 7) night local time with plans to resettle in Tyler, 150 kilometres southeast of Dallas, the Bangkok Post cites the Dallas Morning News as saying.
Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, a Texas-based Christian human rights organisation, confirmed their arrival in a text message in which he also thanked Thai and US officials for expediting the case of the asylum seekers.
“ChinaAid welcomes the landing of the persecuted Chinese ‘Mayflower Church’ to freedom in America and welcome to Texas,” he wrote.
“We will not rest until religious freedom is fully realised in China.”
The 63 members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church - 32 adults and 31 children - have been seeking to live outside of China for the past three years. They travelled first to Jeju in South Korea and then to Thailand in September last year.
They were staying at a resort in Pattaya when police raided the property on Mar 30 and arrested them for overstaying their visas. The adults were each fined B1,500 and the group was then taken to immigration detention facilities in Bangkok.
The case drew the attention of human rights organisations, who appealed to Thailand not to deport the group as they would face persecution in China.
Two Americans who had been working to resettle the group in Texas said the Chinese families could not get their visas renewed because Thai immigration regulations require Chinese nationals to report to the Chinese Embassy first.
Representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Immigration Bureau subsequently opened talks with the UN refugee agency and the US Embassy to find a solution for the group.
In Dallas, Deana Brown, the director of Freedom Seekers International in Tyler, confirmed that she was accompanying the group as the church members moved through US immigration procedures at an unspecified location. Because of security issues, she said she could not provide more details.
At the airport, Julie Hu of the Wichita Falls Bible Reform Church and an immigrant from China, chatted in Mandarin with the newcomers. “The church of Jesus Christ always wins,” she said.
JohnC | 11 April 2023 - 08:44:39