In the News – U.S. activists urge China to stop repatriation of N. Korean defectors

In the News – U.S. activists urge China to stop repatriation of N. Korean defectors

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, March 1 (Yonhap) — A group of U.S.-based human rights activists staged an eye-catching protest rally Thursday right in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, demanding Beijing stop the forceful repatriation of North Korean defectors.

In a street performance, a participant, wearing the uniform of Chinese security officials, dragged two women, with their faces masked and hands tied with ropes.
Some others carried a coffin with a sign attached, saying, “North Koreans killed by China’s repatriation policy.”

The coffin symbolizes the fate of North Korean defectors who are sent back to their homeland, organizers said.

“It’s a life-or-death issue,” Suzanne Scholte, head of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, told Yonhap News Agency. “It’s worse now than ever before. Because the new dictator has vowed that they will execute three generations of anyone who flees during the mourning period (for former leader Kim Jong-il).”

The demonstration, organized by the North Korea Freedom Coalition, came amid reports that around 30 North Koreans who recently fled to China have been caught by local authorities and face repatriation to their homeland, where they will apparently face harsh punishment.

“There is no reason for China to continue this barbaric, inhumane and cruel policy,” Scholte said. “It is urgent that the international community call upon China to allow these refugees safe passage to South Korea, where they can be reunited with their families.”

Jo Jin-hye, who was granted asylum in the U.S. in 2008 after fleeing North Korea three times, gave a first-hand account of what happens to defectors sent back to the North.

“I cried all night over the news that 30 to 40 North Korean defectors are now detained (by Chinese authorities),” the 24-year-old said, wiping tears. “From the moment they are repatriated, they will be beat up, mortified with fright, and gradually starve to death.”

She appealed for the international community to help free the defectors.

Meanwhile, a U.S. congressional panel plans to hold an emergency hearing next week on China’s policy on North Korean defectors.

“Despite its obligations under international law, the Chinese government maintains an agreement with North Korea to repatriate North Korean refugees,” the Congressional Executive Commission on China said on its Web site.

In recent weeks, international human rights advocates and organizations have called on the Chinese government not to repatriate dozens of North Korean refugees currently detained in China.

In Seoul, Rep. Park Sun-young of the conservative opposition Liberty Forward Party has been staging a hunger protest outside the Chinese Embassy for 10 days.

Original article can be found here.

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