‘Mayflower Church’ members arrive safely in United States Chinese Christian churchgoers can finally practice faith freely in US after fleeing religious persecution in Communist China
After a years-long journey to escape severe religious persecution in Communist China, over 60 members of the Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church—dubbed the “Mayflower Church”—are free at least to practice their faith in the United States, announced Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs global human rights subcommittee.
“It is a very Good Friday indeed, and a perfect Easter gift to see these persecuted Chinese Christians arrive and be allowed to practice their faith freely in the United States,” said Smith, an internationally-recognized human rights defender who advocated for the churchgoers over the past several years as they remained in diplomatic limbo and faced possible refoulement to China while seeking to escape the oppression of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“Had they been forcibly repatriated to China, they would have been jailed and severely persecuted,” said Smith, who authored the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act and has chaired over 85 congressional hearings and markups on the egregious human rights abuses perpetrated by the CCP.
Early last month, Smith met with a delegation of Thai officials—including representatives from the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Thai embassy, and the Thai Royal Police—where he raised the plight of the Mayflower churchgoers and asked for assurances that the religious community would not be sent back to China under any circumstances.
After news broke last week that the Chinese Christians were detained in Thailand, Smith—who believes corruption at the local level led to the unfolding crisis—engaged Thai government officials to help ensure the group was not repatriated to Communist China as the result of suspected pressure from CCP agents.
The Mayflower Church members—who fled China in 2019—had traveled to Thailand in August 2022 from South Korea’s Jeju Island after the group perceived that their chances of getting asylum in Korea were slim. During the church community’s stay in South Korea, Smith also engaged with government officials and advocates from the country to help prevent possible refoulement to China.
“After years of fleeing persecution suffered at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, these men and women of great faith can finally enjoy religious freedom in America,” said Smith.
“In the future, Thai government officials must be more vigilant when it comes to malign CCP activities within their country,” added Smith, “and work to hold accountable any police officers or officials who colluded with Chinese Communist agents in an attempt to deprive church members of their rights under international refugee law.”