Arrest of North Korean Refugees Spur Protests

As the Chinese government has pledged support for new North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, China has arrested dozens of North Korean defectors. Activists have called on China to not repatriate the defectors. The Los Angeles Times reports:

For years, human rights advocates have criticized China’s refusal to recognize North Korean defectors and its policy of returning, or repatriating, all escapees from the North captured on its soil. Beijing’s stance has taken on more urgency in recent weeks, after new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to punish and even kill three generations of family members of anyone who tries to leave the impoverished North.

On Tuesday, ringed by police officers, more than 100 people gathered across the street from the Chinese Embassy, waving banners that read “The Chinese government should stop pushing North Korean defectors toward the guillotine” and “Forced repatriation is a death sentence.”

The most recent arrests took place last Wednesday, when at least 10 defectors were arrested at a bus terminal in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, according to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea.

The arrests were the first involving a large group of North Korean defectors since Kim took control in Pyongyang. He assumed power after his father, Kim Jong Il, died of a heart attack in December.

Due to China’s rise in power, the issue of China’s treatment of the defectors has been controversial. The Korea Herald adds:

The latest case also triggered criticism of Seoul’s so-called “low-key” diplomacy regarding North Koreans picked up in China, with activists here calling on the government to pressure China to stop their “inhumane” repatriations.

Some experts and activists say that China, rising as part of the G-2, should present a positive image as a global leader and promote universal values such as human rights.

But Beijing is seemingly more concerned with state sovereignty than individual human rights, as witnessed on Feb. 4 when it, along with Russia, vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for the leader of Syria to step down over the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

Officials from Beijing and the North reportedly met last Sunday and this Monday to discuss the issue. Observers believe the chances are high that the defectors will soon be handed over to Pyongyang.

February 14, 2012 3:27 PM
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