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View more articles by Lawrence Steele
Lawrence Steele is the pseudonym for an NK News correspondent on the China-North Korea border.
TUMEN, China – The Chinese border city cafe part-owned by Peter Hahn, the Korean-American missionary convicted of fraud by local authorities, has closed after his managing partner was denied a visa renewal with no explanation, the partner’s wife told NK News.
Elizabeth Grainger, whose husband Bob had been running The Green Apple cafe in Tumen since 2009, said that Beijing had denied the couple a renewal of their visa in August.
“Yes, we understand The Green Apple is closed as our workers cannot afford to carry on without us,” Grainger confirmed to NK News after it found the cafe closed on a visit last month.
A security guard in the building adjacent to the cafe told NK News at the time that staff had left on the last day of September.
Mrs. Grainger said they had been given no explanation for the visa denial but suspected it was because of their partnership with Hahn, who was convicted of forging receipts in August by a court in Yanbian prefecture.
“We had about a week to try to tie up our affairs before having to leave,” Mrs. Grainger said. “We can only speculate it was because we were in partnership with the NGO headed up by Peter Hahn. I also taught at his school.”
Hahn, who ran a non-profit school beside the cafe, was released immediately following his conviction after nine months in jail.
Mrs. Grainger insisted that she and her husband had not broken any laws in China and departed the country with “heavy hearts.”
“We never, personally, took a penny wages from the business, funding ourselves from pensions as we are a retired couple,” she said. “The proceeds from The Green Apple went to help students within the school/college to enable them to have a higher standard of education as many had failed high school exams and had very poor job prospects.”
Christian activists had said that Hahn, who did regular charity work inside North Korea, had been targeted for his faith. His prosecution coincided with a broader crackdown on foreign Christian aid workers operating on the border with North Korea. Kevin Garratt, a Canadian who ran a cafe in the border city of Dandong with his wife, has been in detention in the country since August last year, when he was accused of espionage. His wife, Julia, was released on bail in February pending trial on related charges.
A report by Reuters last year claimed that hundreds of foreign missionaries were being forced out of China, mostly through denial of visas.