China detains Christian aid worker on North Korean border

by Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Posted 11/21/14, 02:45 pm

The Chinese government detained an American aid worker who operates on the China-North Korea border on Tuesday, according to the Sydney Morning Herald

American Peter Hahn, 73, who oversees multiple NGO projects in the area, was arrested in Tumen, China, on accusations of embezzlement. Officials reportedly interrogated him for six hours and have not yet released him.

Zhang Peihong, Hahn’s lawyer, said the serious accusations were “groundless” and “impossible to stand up.” Hahn’s supporters say he used his life savings to move to the United States from North Korea and launch his projects. An Australian pastor, whose church has supported Hahn’s work, found the government’s claims hard to believe. 

“We’ve known each other for 12 years,” the pastor told Fairfax Media. “Peter has always been an honest person.”

Hahn’s work includes employing hundreds of people in fertilizer and food processing factories and running a bakery to help supply orphanages.

China froze Hahn’s bank accounts, making it nearly impossible for his work to continue in his absence. His house has been put under surveillance, and his office was raided. His wife, Eunice, fled to Seoul after the first raid, during which police confiscated Hahn’s laptop and passport, among other documents.

“I never thought he would get detained,” Eunice said. “My heart beats very hard when I imagine how bad his circumstances are.”

Many of Hahn’s supporters suspect the arrest was politically motivated and part of a larger crackdown on various ministries and NGOs operating along the North Korean border. Two other staff members have been detained recently, including a South Korean national. 

“I feel that the Chinese government doesn’t want foreign NGOs working on North Korea anymore,” Eunice, told Fairfax Media by telephone from Seoul. “In the past, it just left us alone; but now it is cracking down.”

Speculation about the reasons for the recent crackdown vary. It comes amidst apparent Chinese frustration with the North Korean government. 

North Korea recently released the last three American detainees it held in the country, Jeffrey Fowle, Kenneth Bae, and Donald Miller. Fowle was detained for leaving a Bible in a nightclub, and Bae was an American missionary. 

See World’s past reporting on the American detainees in North Korea here.

Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Rachel is an assistant editor for WORLD Digital. Follow Rachel on Twitter @Rachel_Lynn_A.

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