Lawmaker urges China to reconsider repatriation

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Lawmaker urges China to reconsider repatriation

Representative Cho Myung-chul, a defector-turned South Korean lawmaker, called upon Beijing to not send back a group of North Koreans who were recently arrested in China on their journey fleeing the regime.

According to Cho, a Saenuri Party lawmaker, and civic activists in Seoul, more than 27 North Koreans defectors were arrested by Chinese authorities between July 15 and July 17 in Qingdao and Kunming, China, including “a months-old infant.”

They are allegedly now detained in Tumen, an area of Northeast China bordering North Korea, at risk of being sent back to the regime, where they would likely face brutal punishment.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed local reports of the arrest of the North Koreans and said it would “make all diplomatic efforts” to stop the repatriation. The ministry did not release the defectors’ identities.

“Despite the fact that they are clearly expressing their will to defect to a third country, they are now at risk of being repatriated,” Cho said. “As you all know, if they are sent back, they will be treated in a way that a human being cannot bear.

“They would be dragged to a labor camp or a political prison,” he said. “There, they would die of disease under inhumane treatment, and others would be beaten to death, and their families would be affected by association.”

Calling the Chinese government’s repatriation of North Korean defectors “an act of annihilation against human dignity,” Cho urged Beijing to stop sending back North Korean defectors to the regime if it wanted to develop ties with Seoul.

“There was the summit between President Park Geun-hye and her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping this year,” Cho said. “During his speech at Seoul National University ... Xi emphasized the thousands of years of relations between the two countries.

“But if he really wants to show his will to improve ties [between China and South Korea], it should be proven by [helping] end the North’s nuclear weapons program and forced repatriation.”

In February, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea issued a 400-page report on the North’s human rights violations in which it also urged China to stop the repatriation of North Korean defectors. Still, despite the summit, Beijing has not yet withdrawn its repatriation policy.

Seoul has no official statistics on North Korean defectors who are sent back to their homeland.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]





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