Reps urge China not to repatriate North defectors

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Reps urge China not to repatriate North defectors

A South Korean Parliamentary committee adopted a resolution yesterday calling on China to stop forcible repatriations of North Koreans, following reports that Beijing planned to send home dozens of Northerners rounded up in Chinese cities.

The National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee adopted the resolution after hurriedly wrapping up an audit of the Ministry of Unification.

Park Sun-young, a lawmaker with Liberty Forward Party, said that China would, within hours, repatriate 33 of 35 North Korean defectors allegedly arrested in a recent roundup.

Two of the defectors in Chinese custody are believed to have South Korean passports, according to a source in Seoul.

“We strongly urge the Chinese government to recognize North Korean defectors as refugees, protect them and immediately stop forcibly repatriating them in consideration of the political persecution they could suffer after being sent to the North,” the resolution read, which was submitted Tuesday by 26 lawmakers of the ruling and opposition parties, including Park.

The Commission to Help North Korean Refugees, a Seoul-based Christian NGO, said Sunday that 35 North Koreans were rounded up in three Chinese cities on Sept. 27-30 and were expected to be forcibly sent back to the North early this month.

On Wednesday, the ruling Grand National Party floor leader Hwang Woo-yea sent a letter to the Chinese leadership, saying the repatriation them would be in violation of the United Nations refugee convention, of which China is a member.

A Seoul official said Chinese authorities informed Seoul early yesterday that they were investigating “illegal residents” but the investigation was taking time because China was in a holiday period. “It appears there will be no forced repatriation today,” the official said.

The official also said that the number of people under investigation appeared to be fewer than 35. Seoul sent a diplomat to China yesterday regarding the case.

By Moon Gwang-lip []
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