Korean American Christian Aid Worker arrested in China

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Peter Hahn, 74, was arrested by Chinese officials Friday. His Christian Aid work along the Chinese-North Korea border employed hundreds and helped feed orphans before authorities seized his funds in July.

BEIJING (Christian Examiner) -- A month after he was first detained by Chinese authorities, Peter Hahn, 74, the Korean American Christian aid worker who ran a vocational school in the border region of China and North Korea was arrested last Friday. According to the Associated Press, the arrest was confirmed by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki who stated the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang was providing consular assistance.

Hahn was formally charged of embezzlement and counterfeiting receipts, his Shanghai-based lawyer Zhang Peihong told Reuters. The lawyer said he was notified by prosecutors of the arrest and suspected authorities targeted Hahn because of his Christian faith.

"The charges leveled against him are just excuses," Zhang said adding the accusations "clearly have no merit."

Born in North Korea, but a naturalized U.S. citizen, Hahn ran his school in the border town of Tumen City for more than a decade before authorities launched an investigation spanning several months and questioning him and his staff according to NBC News.

In previous reports Zhang stated authorities first visited Hahn in April and later raided and closed his school in July. Eunice Hahn, Peter's Wife, indicated all their funds had been frozen and vehicles confiscated at that time as well. Eunice, who fled to Seoul, said Hahn is a diabetic and has suffered several strokes since being detained last month.

With a trial date yet to be determined, Zhang said he was "not optimistic about the case's prospects" now that he has been arrested.

In November when her husband was first detained, Eunice told Fairfax Media in an interview that the government's actions indicated increasing sensitivity against Christian activism in the area.

"I feel that the Chinese government doesn't want foreign NGOs working on North Korea any more," she said. "In the past, it just left us alone; but now it is cracking down."

The Sydney Morning Herald reported last month that in addition to the Tumen River Vocational School, before China froze their bank accounts the couple helped fund fertilizer and food processing factories that employed hundreds and a bakery that provided meals for orphanages.