China is increasingly targeting Christian organisations near the North Korean border in an attempt to quell any support for North Koreans crossing over to escape persecution, Reuters reports.
Missionary groups reported Monday that law enforcement officers have conducted a sweep of the border, and forced hundreds of Chinese citizens to flee the area.
North Korean refugees frequently enter China before escaping to South Korea or other countries. South Korean officials told Reuters that they have seen a drop in the number of defectors this year, however.
Christian pastor Simon Suh said that as many as 1,000 South Korean missionaries have been forced out of China, and many South Korean churches have been closed.
In addition, the owners of Christian coffee shops and bookstores near the Chinese-North Korean border are being persecuted.
China's Foreign Ministry is investigating a Canadian couple who runs Peter's Coffee House near the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge for allegedly "collecting and stealing intelligence materials related to Chinese military targets and important Chinese national defense scientific research programs, and engaging in activities that endanger China's national security."
Friends of Kevin and Julia Garratt – owners of Peter's Coffee House – said the couple have lived in China for 30 years, and are being targeted because of their charity, North Star Aid. The organisation sends food and other items to North Korea's needy.
Another Christian coffee shop owner, Peter Hahn, has also been harassed by Chinese authorities. An American citizen, Hahn established a school in China, and has made it his mission to help North Korean refugees.
"Peter (Hahn)'s school in Tumen and Kevin Garratt's coffee shop were two organisations that were really well known," Pastor Suh said. "Both of them being cracked down on is a huge blow to everyone, to every activist who is involved with North Korea."
Both China and North Korea are officially atheist states.