Sixty-three Chinese Christians hoping to find asylum in Thailand pending a move to America are spending a fourth day in an immigration detention centre near Bangkok airport.
There are continuing fears the group may yet be deported to face jail and more persecution in China.
The members of Shenzhen Reformed Holy Church, also known as the Mayflower Church, remain under arrest after being picked up by Thai police from the hotel they were staying in last Thursday.
Commenting to Premier Christian News, lawyer and Texas-based rights activist Dr Bob Fu of China Aid said:
“They are in good spirit except with some sickness and despite being bitten by massive bugs inside the jail cell. But they hold praise and worship service twice a day inside the prison, like Daniel, Paul and Silas.”
The group are made up of 28 adults and 35 children but say they experienced beatings at the hands of Thai police when they were taken to the detention centre. Bob Fu says rendition against their will on flights back to China remains a real threat.
A report in the Bangkok Post quoting local police sources stated: “By law the foreigners who were arrested for overstaying visas would be fined, repatriated and prohibited from revisiting Thailand for a certain period.”
Bob Fu said the group had not been left on their own and that talks with the Thai authorities remain ongoing:
“Our American team members and US Embassy staff have bought basic supplies including bibles and were able to deliver them to the Mayflower in the detention cells”, he said.
“The US government is watching very closely for the Mayflower members, actually they are safer inside the detention centre than being released for now”, he continued.
“Our team and US Embassy are assessing the situation moment by moment.”
Bail requirements under Thai law have been shared with Premier Christian News. One source following the situation of the church said each person may have to pay £1300 to secure release from detention.
China Aid say the church members had originally fled to Jeju Island in South Korea, before continuing their journey to Thailand, to stake their asylum claim, ahead of hopes of finding safety in America.