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China DEPORTS Christians for supporting North Korea defectors

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Three local governments in northeastern China have sent home hundreds of South Korean religious people operating there since late last year and taken measures to have their churches closed.

The authorities in the three provinces – Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang – had hundreds out of around 1,000 South Korean pastors and missionaries living there leave China, since late last year.

All South Korean churches in Changchun, the capital of Jilin Province, were closed as of early this month.

The Chinese authorities have offered no clear reasons for the measures taken against South Korean religious people and churches.

China's leader Xi Jinping.

China's President Xi Jinping

A source told The Korean Herald the Chinese authorities strongly recommended South Korean religious people return home as they believed South Korean pastors in the region close to the border with North Korea were involved in activities supporting North Korean defectors.

The source said: "As they were sent back home, churches were closed automatically.”

The authorities' action is also interpreted as a pre-emptive measure before China implements new regulations on religious affairs, which will take effect on February 1 of next year.

The endorsement in September of the ordinance by the State Council, China's Cabinet, is aimed at strengthening controls to "eradicate extremism."

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Armed police soldiers lift timbers during a drill on August 24, 2016 in Chongqing, China. As the highest temperatures reached over 40 degree Celsius at 5 districts in Chongqing, officers and soldiers of an armed police crop took outdoor training VCG via . Images

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Armed police soldiers lift timbers during a drill on August 24, 2016 in Chongqing, China. As the highest temperatures reached over 40 degree Celsius at 5 districts in Chongqing, officers and soldiers of an armed police crop took outdoor training

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Under the new directive, organisers of unapproved religious activities in China will face fines of up to £34,084 (300,000 yuan) and anybody providing a venue for "illegal religious events" will face fines of between £2,272 (20,000 yuan) and £22,722 (200,000 yuan).

The new rules, which apply to all religions ranging from Christianity to Buddhism, also allow lower-level authorities to take care of affairs relating to unsanctioned religious activities, which will bring religious groups in China under tighter scrutiny.

China, Pyongynag's only ally, has also been known to send back North Korea defectors despite them facing “systematic” torture under Kim Jong-un’s regime.

A report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2016 found: "Accounts from North Korean defectors indicate individuals caught trying to defect or forcibly repatriated from China are severely punished, particularly those believed to have interacted with missionaries or engaged in religious activities."

Wanghailou Catholic Church in Tianjin. ChinaZhang Peng/.

Wanghailou Catholic Church in Tianjin. China

In a flagrant breach of the UN Convention, China continues to send North Koreans back claiming the defectors are not refugees.

It comes as the US State Department welcomed a decision by China and South Korea on Tuesday to resume normal ties after a year-long standoff over a decision by Seoul and Washington to deploy a missile defence system to counter North Korea's nuclear programme.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing: “We were pleased to hear that the Republic of Korea, that our Korean friends, and also the Chinese are forging a closer relationship.

“We see that as providing better stability … for a region that desperately needs it because of North Korea."

Ms Nauert said there had been no change in the decision by South Korea and the United States to deploy the THAAD missile defence system in South Korea to protect against Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programme.

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