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PRESS RELEASE: HRNK calls upon China's President while in Seoul to announce a halt to forced repatriations of North Korean refug
July 02, 2014


On the occasion of President Xi Jinping's visit to the Republic of Korea, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) calls upon China to reverse its policy of forcibly repatriating North Koreans, allowing them instead to go on to South Korea where they are welcomed as citizens. Forced returns to North Korea regularly result in cruel and inhuman treatment, which the United Nations Commission of Inquiry calls crimes against humanity and for which not only North Korean but Chinese officials could be held accountable.

A new paper, "China's Forced Repatriation of North Korean Refugees Incurs United Nations Censure" prepared by HRNK Co-Chair Roberta Cohen (to be published in the International Journal of Korean Studies this fall) reviews China's policies and practices toward North Koreans entering China illegally and calls for a vigorous international effort to protect North Korean refugees and encourage China to see that its interests may be better served by modifying its policies. 

HRNK Board member Winston Lord, former US Ambassador to China, calls for the United States, in close collaboration with South Korea and Japan, to "talk to Beijing about various contingencies in North Korea and the interests of outside nations. This could ease general Chinese concerns about ‘stability’ on the Korean Peninsula and provide a framework for more humane, enlightened policies toward North Korean refugees."

Cohen, in arguing for "a new approach," says that “it is time for China to acknowledge that the North Korean refugee problem is a multilateral one requiring multilateral solutions with South Korea and other states.” China, she says, "will enhance its standing in the international community and be better able to exercise a positive role in Asia and beyond if it begins to treat North Korean refugees in accordance with its 2013 Law on Entry and Exit and comply with the international refugee standards to which it is committed." A moratorium on forced repatriations will also "end the international criticism China is now facing and encourage other states in the Asian region to uphold international refugee and human rights principles."

HRNK's Executive Director Greg Scarlatoiu considers that “China has centered its approach to cumbersome traditional ally North Korea on its demand for stability, averseness to refugee inflows, and desire to create business opportunities in spite of North Korea’s investment-unfriendly environment.” Scarlatoiu further points out: “North Korea’s continued rejection of economic and social reform means the country is stuck in its current predicament. For China, the best way to avoid future potentially uncontrollable refugee inflows is to enable an effective process to protect North Korean refugees now.”

The paper by HRNK Co-chair Roberta Cohen is available on HRNK’s website: http://hrnk.org/publications/hrnk-articles.php

Contact: Greg Scarlatoiu, executive.director@hrnk.org; 202-499-7973

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