China will begin on July 28 the trial of a Korean-American missionary who was arrested last year over a non-profit school he ran near the sensitive border with North Korea, his lawyer said. The case has sparked outcry from international Christian groups.
A sprawling crackdown had forced hundreds of Christian missionaries out of China, most by having their visas refused, sources told Reuters last August.
Supporters of Peter Hahn, the missionary, said he was being targeted because of his Christian faith and because of the small vocational school he ran.
Authorities have dropped three of the four charges against Hahn, 74, probably for lack of evidence, his lawyer, Zhang Peihong, told Reuters, leaving only the least serious charge of counterfeiting receipts.
“I wouldn’t call my attitude optimistic,” Zhang said by telephone. “After all Peter has only done good works, so he shouldn’t face any punishment. I do hope the court will act impartially.”
|The entrance to a vocational school ran by Peter Hahn, a 74-
year-old Korean-American who is being investigated by
Chinese authorities, is seen in the Chinese border city of
Tumen, opposite the North Korean border town of Namyang,
in Jilin province.
August 8, 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Megha Rajagopalan)
Hahn could receive a maximum of two years in prison, Zhang said, but he expects authorities to simply deport him back to the United States instead.
His school in the border town of Tumen had been shut down after an investigation last year that lasted months, he said.
Hahn, who was formally arrested in December after months under house arrest, will be tried in Yanbian prefecture, near the North Korean border in northeast China.
Hahn’s health has improved as the weather has warmed, but his family has not been able to meet him, Zhang said. Hahn has diabetes and has suffered strokes, his wife has said.
Last year, a Canadian Christian couple who worked with North Korean refugees and ran a coffee shop in Dandong on the Chinese border were accused of espionage by the Chinese government.
China Aid labeled 2014 the “Year of Persecution and Endurance” after releasing its Annual Report of Religious and Human Rights Persecution in China. The report showed a 152.74 percent rise of persecution among Christians.
The category with the largest increase was the number of citizens sentenced, which increased from 12 in 2013 to 1,274 in 2014.
In 2014, there were 572 documented cases of persecution in which 17,884 religious practitioners were persecuted, representing a 300 percent increase since 2013.
Reuters contributed to this article.