News

US Lawmakers Urge China to Change Course on N. Korean Defectors

A North Korean defector holds a banner during a rally for North Korean refugees who were repatriated by the Chinese government, in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. (2011 File)
A North Korean defector holds a banner during a rally for North Korean refugees who were repatriated by the Chinese government, in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. (2011 File)

China is facing growing calls to stop the repatriation of dozens of North Koreans who recently fled into China and are being held by authorities. China says it has the right to send them back, calling them "economic migrants."  But human rights activists say the detainees could face torture and execution, if they are returned to North Korea.

U.S. lawmakers held a hearing on Monday to highlight the urgency of the situation.

Representative Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey and head of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, said that in recent weeks Chinese authorities have detained dozens of North Koreans who have fled to China.

Smith said they will face dire consequences, if they return to North Korea.

"North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, has threatened to quote 'exterminate three generations' of any family with a member caught defecting from North Korea during the 100 day mourning period of the late Kim Jong Il.  And frankly, I believe him," said Smith.

Instead of sending them back to North Korea, as China has been done for years, U.S. lawmakers, human rights activists and two North Korean defectors are urging Beijing to take a different course.

In her testimony before the commission, North Korean defector Songhwa Han said the reason she fled North Korea many years ago for the first time was so she could feed her children.  Han said she crossed the waist-high waters of the Tumen River into China, carrying her malnourished seven-year-old daughter in a sack and holding her elder daughter's hand as they braved the icy currents.

Han said she was forcibly repatriated to North Korea four times, before finally escaping overseas.  

Han said repatriated North Koreans had to become animals to survive.  She said that after defectors were handed over to North Korean authorities, they were told they were dogs and that they were allowed only to look down at the ground.  Prisoners were chained to one another and were beaten with the butt of a gun, if they made any noise.

Her daughter, Jinhye Jo, also testified at the hearing.

Jo said it was hunger that led her family to flee North Korea, and that they had to contend with Chinese authorities searching for North Korean defectors and human traffickers.  

Jo said that when she thinks of what she endured while being held in North Korea, she fears it would be far worse for the dozens of North Koreans now being held in China once they are repatriated.

According to the State Department's 2010 human rights report, it is estimated that thousands of North Koreans are hiding in China.  Reports and testimonies of those who have been forcibly repatriated tell of beatings, torture, forced labor and sexual violence against those who are caught.

Suzanne Scholte, a human rights activist working on behalf of North Korean defectors, says China is prolonging the refugee crisis.

"China fears an increasing flow of refugees, if it allows refugees safe passage to South Korea.  But China's actions are ensuring that there will always be refugees by relieving Kim Jong Un of taking any measures that would improve conditions in North Korea," said Scholte. "North Koreans are fleeing North Korea out of desperation.  They know the considerable risks they are taking, and most North Koreans desire to return to North Korea once conditions improve."

In recent weeks, calls for China to stop its repatriation of North Korean defectors have increased, and South Korea has played a key role in drawing international attention to the issue.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has urged China to refrain from repatriating North Korean defectors if they are not involved in criminal activity.  Seoul has also raised the issue with a United Nations panel on human rights and in meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in South Korea last week.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: John djang
March 06, 2012 5:24 PM
have sympathy on the refugees, hope my government to figure out better solutions.

by: Cả Thộn
March 06, 2012 2:06 PM
China is so afraid that another million NK to come if they accept refugees. But it is heartless to send those refugees back to die under Kim Young-un regime.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs