The plight of North Korean defectors living in China is dire. We urgently demand that the Chinese government adhere to the 1951 Refugee Convention; to respect the right of North Korean escapees and to stop their deportation.
An estimated 30,000 to 60,000 North Korean defectors are living in China.
While China is a party to the UN Refugee Convention and enacted into law a new refugee provision in 2012, it does not adhere to either one in its treatment of North Korean defectors.
According to IRC (International Rescue Committee), persons fleeing from North Korea have a prima facie claim to refugee status because of the political persecution, repression and famine conditions that result from a food supply that is distributed based on political loyalty.
However, China refuses to acknowledge the refugee claims of this group and treat them as illegal aliens. As a result, North Koreans who have defected to China are in constant fear of being caught by Chinese officers or North Korean undercover agents and deported back to North Korea.
The penalty enacted on North Korean defectors who are caught and forced to return is extremely harsh and ranges from physical punishment to years in a concentration camp and even to the death penalty.
Even for those who are able to remain in China, conditions are severe.
Children cannot attend school as the school requires a birth certificate to prove legal status. Female refugees face another physical threat as they become prey to sex traffickers or are sold as “brides”.
The Chinese government’s handling of North Korean refugees violates both domestic law and international convention which stipulates;
(1) The Chinese government should allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to make the determination on refugee status if it cannot process adequate evaluation of refugee status of North Korean escapees.
(2) Even if the Chinese government determines the motive for defecting is economical, it should oblige to the principle of “non-refoulement” by the 1951Refugee Convention. “No contracting State shall expel or return a refugee in any matter whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened”.
As China becomes the world’s largest economy and increases its international influence, it is imperative that China take more responsibility in the refugee crisis and abide by the international agreement that it consented to.
Please sign the petition to ask the Chinese government to respect the right of North Korean escapees and adhere to the 1951 Refugee Convention.