China Should Allow North Korean Refugees to Stay, Said WSJ

Melanie Kirkpatrick, deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, wrote on the newspaper:

If Beijing wants to send a message to Pyongyang about its nuclear program, it could announce that, effective immediately, it is taking several steps: It will stop deporting North Koreans, allow the United Nations to set up refugee camps, and permit the resettlement of refugees in third countries, from which they could go to South Korea, whose constitution codifies its moral responsibility to accept its Northern cousins, or to other countries willing to take them in.

Kirkpatrick quoted three official Chinese government documents that were obtained privately. Among the three documents, one is from the Border Police, the other from a police station along the border, and the third is from the Finance Bureau of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin Province.

Below are excerpts from Kirkpatrick’s article:

The Border Police document, dated Jan. 10, 2005, begins blandly enough: “From the start of illegal border crossings in 1983,” it says, “the number of illegal immigrants from that have stayed in China has increased every year.” It adds, “Public Security and Armed Police departments have strengthened preventative and deportation efforts.”

The numbers it reports are newsworthy — and staggering: “To date, almost 400,000 North Korean illegal immigrants have entered China and large numbers continue to cross the border illegally.” And, “As of the end of December 2004, 133,009 North Korean illegal immigrants have been deported.” While Chinese authorities obviously know how many refugees they have deported, by definition they can’t know how many are in hiding. The estimate of 400,000 is sure to be low.

The Yanbian Finance Bureau document, dated Oct. 19, 2004, provides further evidence of the extent of the crisis. It is a letter to provincial authorities requesting more money to help with deportation efforts. “According to statistics from the Public Security, border police and civil administration, more than 93,000 refugees are still living in Yanbian Prefecture.” The letter goes on to say that although the Border Police Bureau has established “six new refugee-deportation and detention centers,” it does not have sufficient funds to do the job. Yanbian requests 30 million yuan ($3.8 million) a year “to solve this financial problem.”

It’s the third document, though, that puts this “financial problem” in human terms. It’s a report, dated Oct. 7, 2003, from a police station in Badaogou Precinct, near Baishan City, in Zhangbai Korean Autonomous County, also in Jilin Province.

“At 7 a.m. on Oct. 3, 2003,” Case Report No. 055 begins, “a report was received from the public of several corpses floating in the Yalu River. Officers from the Precinct immediately responded and organized personnel and by 10 a.m. 53 corpses had been recovered.

“At 5 a.m. on Oct. 4 an additional three corpses were recovered for a total of 56 corpses. There were 36 males and 20 females, including seven children (five male and two female). After examination of the personal effects it was determined that the dead were citizens of the DPRK [North Korea]. Autopsies confirmed that all 56 had been shot to death. It is estimated that the dead were shot by Korean border guards while attempting to cross into China.”[Full Text]

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