Thirty or so North Korean refugees in China facing the serious threat of persecution and even death back in their home country, have been granted temporary relief due to South Korea's National Assembly adopting on Monday a resolution urging China to refrain from sending them back.
The measure, backed by 154 lawmakers, calls on China to follow international laws on repatriation of the North Korean refugees, who are facing harsh punishments and even execution upon return to their home country, RTTNews revealed. The resolution urged the U.N. and other global institutions to pressure China into adhering to these laws, which prohibit forcible repatriation, either directly or indirectly, of any individuals to a country where they face the risk of persecution, torture or death.
Around 30 or so North Koreans were arrested by Chinese police on Feb. 8 in the city of Shenyang, and are now being held in the north-eastern city of Changchun for entering the country illegally while on their way to South Korea. China considers them economic migrants rather than asylum seekers, which it is using as grounds to try and send them back.
The North Korea Freedom Coalition, which currently has over 70 public member organizations representing millions of American, South and North Korean, and Japanese citizens as well as other nations fighting for the human rights of North Koreans, released a statement on Tuesday calling for urgent action on behalf of the refugees.
To highlight the urgency of the situation, the Coalition revealed the stories of two refugees desperately hoping to not be sent back to North Korea.
"Two considerations on the urgency of this matter are that in the groups that were recently arrested are refugees who have family members in South Korea: a 16-year-old boy whose older brother is in South Korea and a 19-year-old girl whose parents are in Seoul. In fact, the parents of the young girl are so desperate that they have appealed to be allowed to send poison to their daughter so that she can commit suicide in China rather than face repatriation to North Korea," the statement read.
The coalition is asking for help in the form of letters to Chinese embassies, consulates and government institutions urging the Communist state to allow the North Koreans to come into South Korea instead of being sent back.
The sample letters were addressed directly to Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China, and beg with him to save the North Koreans' lives.
"South Korea has already requested that China not repatriate these refugees to North Korea, where they will face certain torture and likely execution because they fled during the mourning period," the statement continued, referring to the passing of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il, in Dec. 2011.
Fleeing the country, especially during the mourning period, is deemed a highly punishable crime in North Korea – the country's officials even began persecuting citizens who did not appear genuinely emotional following their late leader's death.
Suzanne Scholte, Chairman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, shared with The Christian Post that it is going to take a lot of outcry and a concerted effort by the international community, especially the South Korean and American governments, the United Nations, as well as NGOs, and citizens, to save the North Korean refugees.
"This is a pivotal moment as this group of refugees arrested this month face extreme punishment and even execution because they fled during the mourning period of Kim Jong-il and because some of the refugees have family members that already successfully fled to South Korea," she said.
"In addition to writing letters, people should also join the protests that are being held all over the world at the PRC embassies and consulates. For example, there have been recent protests in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and there is a protest scheduled for this Thursday in Washington, D.C. at the Chinese Embassy at noon," Scholte added.