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(New York) – Government of Thailand Human Rights Watch called today to ensure that 63 recently detained Christian Chinese asylum seekers are not returned to China, where they face persecution, torture and other grave harm.

On March 30, 2023, Thai authorities arrested 28 adults and 35 children who are members of the persecuted Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church – also known as the Mayflower Church – in the coastal city of Pattaya for visa overstays. These asylum seekers came to Thailand in 2022 to escape persecution by the Chinese authorities. They cannot get their visas renewed because Thailand’s immigration regulations require Chinese citizens to first report to the Chinese embassy.

“In China under President Xi Jinping, leaders and members of ‘house churches’ who refuse to join official churches increasingly face persecution, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment,” said ellen pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Thai authorities need to recognize the serious dangers facing Christians in China and under no circumstances should they be forced to return.”

United Nations Refugees Human Rights Watch said the agency, UNHCR, should have unfettered access to asylum seekers to assess refugee status and help ensure that no one is deported to a place where their life or liberty could be threatened. be at risk The Thai government of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha has a long record of collaborating with Chinese authorities to harass, detain and forcibly return exiled members. Political, ReligiousAnd Ethnic group – as well as human rights activist And reporters – who fled to Thailand to escape persecution.

Under customary international law, Thailand is bound to ensure that no one is forcibly sent to a place where they may be subjected to torture, torture or other ill-treatment, or a threat to life. Thailand has incorporated international human rights law – in particular the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons forced disappearance – in its newly enacted Act on the Prevention and Repression of Torture and Enforced Disappearances. The Act prohibits action to remove or extradite a person to another country where there are sufficient grounds to believe that they would be at risk of torture or enforced disappearance.

Pearson said, “If Thailand determines that the 63 Christian Chinese cannot remain, they should be allowed to seek safety in another country.” “Governments that respect rights must take immediate steps to express their willingness to put these asylum seekers at risk.”

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