China arrests missionary for crossing Myanmar border closed in conflict

A Protestant pastor who has been conducting missionary work in northern Myanmar has been arrested in the Chinese province of Yunnan for illegally crossing the China-Myanmar border. It had recently been placed on lockdown when military conflict broke out in the area.

(REUTERS / Thomas Peter)A man rides a motorbike in the in the village of Baiyan near Nansan, where an people fleeing fighting in neighbouring Myanmar found refuge, Yunnan province, China, March 11, 2017.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Pastor Cao Sanqiang's mother confirmed that he was initially detained on March 5 and she has not heard any update for almost 30 days now. Another pastor who works with him in the "house church" network China Ministries International said Cao is being held at the Menglian Detention Center over charges of "organizing the illegal crossing of a national border."

"Cao Sanqiang was in Wa state helping them to build a school, and he was involved in other poverty reduction projects," the pastor, whose name has not been mentioned, said. "But the border was recent closed completely because of the fighting."

In addition, Cao's colleague said they have already sought legal services and will file a lawsuit in connection with the case.

According to a Protestant church member in Yunnan, Chinese authorities are usually stricter compared with Myanmar authorities when it comes to illegal border crossings. People do not usually get caught crossing to Myanmar but fall into trouble when crossing to China.

Meanwhile, people displaced by the conflict are flocking to a relief camp in Yunnan. Camp aid manager Li Yinzhong said more and more people come every day and they have to take care of them until they can return to their homes, Reuters reports.

On March 6, the rebel Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army attacked Myanmar police and military forces in Laukkai, leading to the death of 30 people. The violence also caused the people of Kokang to flee from the region. Chinese paramilitary forces, on the other hand, have reportedly sent reinforcements to help in disaster relief.