World Bulletin/News Desk
China has arrested a U.S. aid worker living near the border with North Korea, local media reported Saturday, citing the man’s lawyer.
North Korean-born U.S. citizen Peter Hahn, 74, was arrested in China’s northeastern Yanbian prefecture Friday on charges of embezzlement and counterfeiting receipts, according to the South China Morning Post.
The newspaper said his attorney Zhang Peihong commented that the charges appeared trumped up and reported the arrest as a sign of increased sensitivity over foreigners operating in the border region.
“I am not optimistic about the case’s prospects now that he has been arrested,” Shanghai-based Zhang said. “The charges clearly have no merit.”
Zhang said Hahn maintains his innocence of the charges, which “cannot be stood-up.”
Hahn set up a school for Chinese and Korean childfren in 2002 and has spent time in the border town of Tumen since the 1990s.
Zhang said Hahn’s charity work was inspired by his Christian beliefs but that it was unclear whether he had been targeted because of his religion, adding that no trial date had been set although the case is likely to proceed within three months.
He faces a maximum sentence of 12 years imprisonment.
The Post cited mainland Chinese media reports as saying Hahn’s bank accounts had been frozen over the summer and he was banned from leaving China.
A 2005 profile of Hahn in the Los Angeles Times said he moved to Tumen after retiring as a social worker in Los Angeles. He ran two bakeries inside North Korea that made bread for schoolchildren and his Tumen River Vocational School trained abandoned teenagers.
He also set up a soybean paste factory in the North Korean city of Rajin.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Hahn was visited in jail by a US consular official on Friday.
Earlier this year, Canadian Christian couple Kevin and Julia Garratt were arrested in the border region and accused of spying.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Aralık 2014, 15:17