China Cracks Down on South Korean Christian Missionaries Amid THAAD Tension
Nearly 32 South Korean Christian missionaries have been expelled from China following a sudden raid in the country's improvised north-eastern region of Yanji. The raid comes at a time when Beijing is upping the antic against South Korea over its planned deployment of the US' anti-ballistic missile in the Korean Peninsula.
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The 32 Christian missionaries were forced to leave China in the month of January, people familiar with the matter have said, with one source claiming that the number of Christian missionaries fleeing the country is as high as 60.
South Korea's foreign ministry has also confirmed that the missionaries left China in the month of January, adding that the government has updated local Christian groups about the incident.
Over the past couple of months, Beijing has been pursuing retaliatory measures against its Korean neighbor, as Seoul gets ready to deploy the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile system on its territory.
The Chinese government is against the deployment of the missile system, arguing that such a provocative move will further heighten tensions in the Korean Peninsula.
China's Christian Community may raise Concerns
Meanwhile, the local Christian community is expected to react sharply to the reports of 32 Christian missionaries fleeing the country. The Chinese government remains under the scanner of international organizations over its treatment of religious minorities.
China is believed to be home to about 100 million Christians, with more than 80 percent of the population reportedly professing their loyalty to China's Communist Party. Some experts have argued that if the country's Christian population continues to grow at current pace, then the Asian giant will become home to largest Christian population in next 15 years.
The Chinese government is currently busy pursuing a major deal with the Vatican in a bid to improve its image in the Catholic world. If this breakthrough deal is sealed, Pope Francis will enjoy complete control over the appointment of Bishops across Mainland China.