A Korean-American aid worker who lived in China on the border with North Korea for more than a decade has been detained by the Chinese authorities, his lawyer said Thursday.
The aid worker, Peter Hahn, who is 73 and escaped from the North many years ago, is suspected of embezzlement and possession of fraudulent receipts, said the lawyer, Zhang Peihong.
Mr. Hahn ran a Christian aid agency in Tumen City, a trading town across the border from North Korea in northeast China, where he had a school and provided supplies to the poor in North Korea, Mr. Zhang said.
His detention on Tuesday came three months after the Chinese authorities detained a Canadian Christian couple, Kevin and Julie Garratt, who had lived in Dandong, also on the border with North Korea, since 1984.
At the time of the Garratts arrest, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the couple was “under investigation for suspected theft of state secrets about China’s military and national defense research.”
The authorities began visiting Mr. Hahn in April, asking questions about his life and his humanitarian work, Mr. Zhang said.
In July, the police closed his vocational training school and his five-story building in Tumen, the lawyer said. The police then began questioning Mr. Hahn about his life, the lawyer said.
In an effort to satisfy the police, Mr. Zhang, who is based in Shanghai, visited Mr. Hahn in Tumen in September and advised him to write a long document detailing his escape from North Korea, his life in the United States and his return to China to help people in North Korea. The document was translated into Chinese and handed to the authorities in the nearby city of Yanji two weeks ago, the lawyer said.
“When I visited him in September, plainclothes police were stationed outside his building, and it was sealed,” Mr. Zhang said.
Mr. Hahn seemed in good health, he said, adding, “His health was O.K., but if he’s fit for detention, I’m not sure.”
Mr. Hahn’s wife, Eunice, 65, said in an interview from the South Korean capital, Seoul, that the Chinese authorities froze the couple’s bank accounts in early July and confiscated their personal cars and a delivery truck.
“They stripped away all our finances, took away all our money,” she said. “We’re not even able to pay our employees. I’m very upset about that. All the vehicles have been taken away by the government, except the bicycles. We only have bicycles now.”