21 Japanese detained in China may have been targeted in crackdown on missionaries
They are said to have been Christian group members, and five have already returned to Japan
Chinese authorities detained 21 Japanese nationals in the southwest city of Chongqing and elsewhere on the mainland this month, a source close to Japanese-Chinese relations said on Friday.
The Japanese are said to have been Christian group members and may have been targeted as part of a crackdown on missionary work, which is considered an illegal activity by Beijing.
The 21 were detained some time between May 5 and 15 in Chongqing, and in five provinces – Hebei, Henan, Guizhou, Shanxi and Liaoning – as well as the autonomous region of Ningxia, the source said.
Of the people detained, five have already returned to Japan, according to the Japanese foreign ministry. The ministry did not say if they were deported.
The Japanese government has expressed interest in the detentions, while requesting that the Chinese government deal with them properly.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Friday at a regular press conference that he was not aware of the details, saying media inquiries should be directed to the “relevant government departments”.
“China is a country with the rule of law,” Lu said, adding that Beijing would protect the legal rights of all parties. “But foreigners should abide by Chinese laws too and should not commit crimes.”
China detained 19 Japanese nationals affiliated with a Christian group in the southern province of Guangdong in November, according to the source. All of them were later deported.
Additional reporting by Jun Mai