U.S. Lawmaker Slams China Over North Korean Defectors

Posted March 15th, 2012 at 1:35 am (UTC-5)
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The co-chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives' Human Rights Commission, says that China is seriously infringing on the human rights of North Korean defectors by sending them back to their homeland.

U.S. Representative James McGovern told VOA that Chinese officials realize North Koreans sent back home face a dismal fate.

“I think anyone fleeing from North Korea deserves asylum. That is one of the most brutal regimes, brutal governments, in the world. And we know what happens to people, you know, who are returned. They are usually killed, or they are tortured, or both.”

McGovern said China should allow the defectors to apply for refugee status and that the United States and the international community should make the issue a top priority. He said China must face repercussions for what he called Beijing's disregard of human rights.

“When high leaders from China come to this, to the United States, or other countries, this ought to be the first issue that is raised. There is nothing more important than human rights. And before we enter into any further economic deals that further enrich China, there ought to be some conditionality that China needs to start treating the issue of human rights with greater respect.”

North Korea on Tuesday accused South Korea of abducting North Korean citizens who travel to neighboring countries for personal or economic reasons.

On Monday, scores of human rights activists, including North Korean defectors, demonstrated in Seoul in front of the Chinese embassy, demanding that China stop forced repatriations. They joined South Korean parliamentarian Park Jin in calling on China to treat the defectors as refugees, a status that would protect them from forced repatriation.

The demontrations came after South Korean activist Do Hee-yun accused Beijing last week of forcibly returning 31 North Koreans who had crossed the border into China. Do and defectors who have made it to South Korea say those who are repatriated are likely to be punished severely for attempting to defect.