Fleeing North Koreans especially Christians are finding that the Chinese are no big help in providing asylum from the brutality and state-sanctioned killing in North Korea. Kim Jong Il's government wields unrestricted power in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and his minions continue to run a de factor concentration-camp system that enslaves tens of thousands, including young children.
Periodically, it publicly executes people for offenses such as stealing state property or other "anti-communist" behavior. The North Korean people also secretly complain of the rising problem of government corruption and extortion by officials.
While thousands of North Koreans seek asylum in China, it is believed by Human Rights Watch and other human-rights organizations that China actively contributes to the misery of North Koreans by arresting and forcibly repatriating the tens or hundreds of thousands of them -- no one knows how many for sure -- who live in hiding in China.
Once returned to North Korea, they face abuse, mistreatment, torture, incarceration and sometimes even death. These victims include women, some with children, who may be in de facto marriages with Chinese men. Some of the worst torture and mistreatment is said to be perpetrated against North Korean Christians
Upon their return, North Koreans are punished under a penal code that defines leaving without permission as an act of treason punishable by death.
Yet Chinese government officials -- no paragons of human rights -- continue to routinely repatriate the North Koreans it finds, saying their plight is a "domestic matter" for North Korea.
This is a violation of Beijing's duty as a party to the International Refugee Convention and Protocol: people who have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home are not to be repatriated. The Chinese government goes as far as refusing to give the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees access to the border area in order to investigate complaints. This is a bold act designed to coverup the atrocities committed against North Koreans.
The North Korean government ranks among the world's most repressive, and it respects hardly any basic human rights, according to human-rights experts. The worst treatment by the North Korean government appears to be reserved for those who profess their Christianity, according to the human-rights group Open Doors.
However, the brutal regime denies its citizens the freedoms of information, association, religion, organized political opposition and labor activism. The regime arrests and tortures them arbitrarily and runs large-scale prison camps for those who are accused of having committed a political offense.
Just recently, the World Food Program's Pyongyang office warned of yet another severe food shortage in the country, noting crop damage from flooding last summer. North Korea's chronic food shortage, which in the 1990s deteriorated to a famine that killed an estimated one million people, along with the government's severe repression against its citizens, drove thousands of North Koreans across the border into China, according to Human Rights Watch.
As North Koreans in China continue to face the threat of arrest and forced repatriation, many of them take long and dangerous journeys across China to Southeast Asia, Mongolia and even Western Europe. Yet recently there have been signs that China is more aggressively attempting to arrest even the North Koreans who are simply trying to reach a third country.
According to a Bangkok Post article on Dec. 20, 2007, Thai officials hinted they would tip off Chinese officials on the whereabouts of North Koreans hiding in China before they could cross the Mekong River to arrive in Thailand, which has long been among the most friendly countries for North Korean refugees.
In the past, activists or brokers helping North Koreans were often charged by the Chinese authorities with human smuggling, and the North Koreans were repatriated. According to Human Rights Watch interviews with recent escapees, the North Korean government has hardened its policy against those who cross the border without state permission, including "first-time offenders."
The government of China is facing its own human-rights problem with its treatment of the people of Tibet. Most nations in the free world have condemned the Chinese officials for their flagrant brutality.
As an emerging power and North Korea's ally, China is in a position to help ensure real economic and social progress. But without those steps, statements like Qin Gang's do nothing except demonstrate how grotesquely indifferent Beijing remains to the plight of ordinary North Koreans.
North Korea is a nation cloaked in secrecy, yet enough information was garnered so that it has been topping the list of Christion persecutors for over five years, according to Open Doors.
In no other country in the world are Christians persecuted as severely as in the empire of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, the Christian group said.
To discover how you can help stop the persecution of believing Christians in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, please visit: http://www.helpNK.com/. The web site contains information on religious persecution including an online petition to the US Congress.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he's the new editor for the House Conservatives Fund's weblog. Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty
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