By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– A frail elderly Korean-American aid worker is awaiting trial in China on what supporters believe are trumped up charges linked to his Christian activities on the border with North Korea.
Peter Hahn, 73, was detained December 9 last year on charges of “embezzlement and possession of fraudulent receipts,” while working in the border city of Tumen City, said his lawyer, Zhang Peihong in a statement.
Hahn’s arrest came three months after Chinese authorities detained a Christian Canadian couple, Kevin and Julie Garratt, who lived and worked in Dandong, also on the border with North Korea, since 1984.
Christians said Chinese authorities began visiting Hahn in April last year asking questions about his life and humanitarian work, prompting police to close his vocational training school and five-storey building in July.
Hahn, who fled North Korea, wrote Chinese authorities to explain his escape from Communist-ruled North Korea, his move to the United States, and return to China to help North Koreans, said Christians familiar with the case.
BANK ACCOUNTS FROZEN
Despite these efforts Peter Hahn and his wife Eunice had their bank accounts frozen, while their cars and delivery truck were confiscated by authorities.
Hahn, who denies wrongdoing, could face up to 12 years imprisonment, trial observers said.
“I never thought (my husband) would get detained; my heart beats very hard when I imagine how bad his circumstances are,” Eunice Han said. She said in published remarks that his ongoing detention comes despite concerns over her husband’s health, who has suffered two strokes last year and is diabetic.
“When I was with him, I would always take care of his food and medicine,” she explained in remarks published by rights groups.
“Now he is in jail, (and) obviously they’re not going to take care of his health, even though they say they have a doctor there.”
CANADIAN REMAINS JAILED
Christians also remain worried over the prison circumstances faced by Kevin Garrat, after
his wife was released on bail. The Garratts, from Vancouver, ran a popular coffee shop in Dandong and conducted Christian aid work for North Koreans in the area.
China’s Foreign Ministry has said they have been held on suspicion of “stealing state secrets about China’s military and national defense research.”
Activists say the detention is part of a wider crackdown on devoted Christians in China, including missionaries working in the border area with North Korea.
“Let us thank the Lord for the love and dedicated service demonstrated by Peter, Kevin and Julie for those in need within North Korea,” said advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC) in a message to supporters.
“As Peter and his legal team now prepare for his upcoming trial, pray that God will grant them great peace and wisdom,” VOMC wrote. “May the authorities involved seek justice for Peter so that the charges will be dropped and he can resume his vital ministry work.”