North Korean Refugees in China in Grave Danger of Repatriation
Update 2 (2/20):
In addition to the letter to the Chinese government in the original post below that you can email, fax, or mail, there’s an online petition to the UNHCR and the UN Special Rapporteur that you can sign that’s rapidly collected almost 25,000 signatures.
I also just read a related email sent on behalf of several groups saying that a) they’re on Twitter @savemyfriend (in Korean and English) and Facebook and b) are gathering across from the Chinese Embassy in Seoul every day at 2pm — Gyeongbokgung Subway Station, line 3, exit 2 — walk straight about 8-10 minutes.
And a few more articles:
More Defections and More Arrests (Daily NK)
It’s interesting to read the following brief articles together:
MOFAT Louder than Normal on Repatriations (Daily NK)
NK defectors joining campaigns to free comrades in China (Dong-A Ilbo) – also contains what Amnesty (you read that right) and other groups have been doing
The cases of two to three dozen North Korean refugees recently have been getting some press and even talk (and dare we say action?) by South Korean lawmakers and officials. It’s hard to know exactly where things stand at any one moment with this group, but there are lots of articles if you do a news search for “north korean refugees china repatriate.” I will try to post some of those links later, but for now, I pass on an urgent email from Suzanne Scholte, chairman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition.
Please keep in mind that for every refugee we hear about in the media who has been caught by the Chinese police and sent back like clockwork to torture, work camps, and sometimes worse fates, there are so many more that we never hear about.
(I am copying and pasting the letter below without blockquoting in hopes that it keeps its original formatting)
Please take a few minutes of your time to help save the lives of North Korean refugees who have been arrested in China this past month by writing a letter, sending a fax and emailing the Chinese consulates and embassies appealing for the refugees to be allowed to go to South Korea. Two considerations on the urgency of this matter are that in the groups that were recently arrested are refugees who have family members in South Korea: a 16-year-old boy whose older brother is in South Korea and a 19-year-old girl whose parents are in Seoul. In fact, the parents of the young girl are so desperate that they have appealed to be allowed to send poison to their daughter so that she can commit suicide in China rather than face repatriation to North Korea.
Secondly, with Kim Jong Un’s focus on consolidating power, the situation for repatriated refugees, already horrible, is getting even worse. In January, North Korea issued instructions that the entire family including all relatives should be executed if a family member defected during the 100 day mourning period after Kim Jong-il’s death. Many of you know that we hosted a defector here in the USA in September to testify in the U.S. Congress: Mrs. Kim Hye Sook, who spent 28 years in a political prison camp. Her crime? Her grandfather fled to South Korea in the early 1970s, so her entire family was sent to a political prison camp. She was 13 years old at the time.
South Korea has already requested that China not repatriate these refugees to North Korea, where they will face certain torture and likely execution because they fled during the mourning period.
Below you will see a sample letter and the addresses, the fax numbers and emails for the People’s Republic of China’s embassy and consulates in the USA plus the link for those of you in other countries to find the PRC embassy in your nation. We ask that you not just email or fax but also mail a letter to the embassies and consulates.
Here is a sample letter you can send with optional paragraphs in parenthesis–feel free to use as is or edit in your own words using some of the points in the letter below
President, People’s Republic of China
c/o Consulate of the People’s Republic of China
Dear Mr. President:
Please do not send the North Korean refugees recently arrested in China back to North Korea where they face certain torture and even execution. We urge you to accept the appeal by the South Korean government to allow them to travel to South Korea for resettlement.
(We understand and respect China’s concerns about refugees illegally entering China as they flee starvation and deprivation in North Korea. However, as a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, China is obligated not to force these refugees back to North Korea where they face certain persecution. Furthermore, unlike any refugees in the world today, the North Korean refugees have a place to go for immediate resettlement as they are citizens of South Korea, under Articles 2 and 3 of the Republic of Korea Constitution. In addition to South Korea, many countries have willingly accepted North Koreans for resettlement, so they need not be a burden on China.)
(As you know, the policy of forced repatriation of North Korean refugees has created an environment of violent activity in China where North Korean agents roam freely assassinating humanitarian workers trying to help the refugees, while the majority of North Korean female refugees end up being subjected to human trafficking. Instead, China should allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to assist China in addressing this refugee problem by simply allowing them to fulfill their mission, so this violent activity could end. As your Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai recently stated, “The Chinese government has the responsibility to protect people’s safety and property, and to curb violent activities. That is the most important human right for the people.
(Ending this policy would not only have a very positive benefit for China, but would also increase the potential for reform to come to North Korea, which is also in China’s best interest. The ascendency of Kim Jong Un to power provides China with a tremendous opportunity to encourage reform there. The North Korean refugees, who risk their lives to flee to China, do not want to leave North Korea, but they feel they have no choice because of the conditions in their homeland. If China were to end its forced repatriation policy and work instead with the international community to resolve this problem, it would send a strong signal to the Kim regime of their need to open to reform, which China has been encouraging for decades.)
Please save the lives of the refugees by allowing them to safely be resettled in South Korea.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
CHINESE EMBASSY AND CONSULATE INFORMATION-USA
Chinese Embassy (Washington, DC)
3505 International Place, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China in San Francisco
1450 Laguna Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
3417 Montrose Boulevard
Houston, TX 77006
520 12th Avenue
New York, NY 10036
100 West Erie St.
Chicago, IL 60610
443 Shatto Place
Los Angeles, CA 90020