NATIONAL

Obama urged to press China on N.K. refugees

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Feb 15, 2012 - 14:59
  • Updated : Feb 15, 2012 - 20:40
Kim Jong-un regime in Pyongyang warns of ‘three-generation wipeout’ for defection


An international human rights group urged U.S. President Barack Obama to pressure Beijing to stop forcefully repatriating North Korean refugees during his talks with China’s Vice President Xi Jinping.

The call came as South Korea’s Rep. Park Sun-young of the conservative Liberty Forward Party said 24 North Korean defectors were being held in China ahead of repatriation to their home country.

In a letter sent to the White House on Monday, the North Korea Freedom Coalition said China’s repatriation policy not only directly violates the international agreements it has signed but has also created an environment of violent activity in China.

The group said North Korean agents “roam freely” killing humanitarian workers trying to help the refugees, while the majority of North Korean female refugees fall victim to human trafficking.

“We believe that ending this policy would have a very positive benefit for China as well as increase the potential for reform to take place in North Korea,” the group said in the letter.

“China could resolve the violence and lawlessness resulting from its repatriation policy by simply adhering to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol and allowing the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to do their job.”

Amnesty International also released a statement, calling on Beijing to avoid forced repatriation of North Korean defectors.

The human rights groups said that they were reportedly told that China will repatriate the North Korean defectors by Feb. 20 who, if returned, are likely to face harsh punishment such as detention, torture or even execution.

Especially as North Korea is under the new leadership of Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang is strongly warning of a “three-generation wipe-out” of any family with a North Korean caught defecting.

“The Chinese authorities must enable these North Koreans to seek asylum in China and other countries, and provide them with access to the United Nations refugee agency or other relevant refugee channels,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director, in a statement.

Although China is a state party to the U.N. Refugee Convention, it has prevented the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from assisting China in addressing the North Korean refugee problem.

The South Korea’s foreign ministry said it called a councilor of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul to the ministry and requested China’s cooperation with the North Korean defectors Wednesday.

However, the Chinese government has neither revealed accurate information about the detained North Korean defectors nor decided whether to expel the defectors to North Korea or to send them to South Korea.

By Kim Yoon-mi (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)