Amnesty International Steps In
Amnesty's Statement & Letter to Premier Zhu
How It Started
When six North Korean refugees were arrested late in May 2002, We (LFNKR)
sent an urgent appeal to Amnesty International.
Amnesty, to their credit, thoroughly investigates the credibility of all reports
before acting. While such investigation takes time, it assures that the organization
avoids taking hasty or embarrassing mis-steps.
In response to the situation, Amnesty International issued a press release on
June 21. The organization had already written a letter to Premier Zhu Rongji on June 13,
inquiring into the current state and whereabouts of the six arrested North Koreans.
Our Letter to Amnesty on May 31
Dear Amnesty International:|
At 6:00AM this morning, May 31, we received the following urgent message from CK Park, International Human Rights Volunteers, with whom we have been working to rescue North Korean Refugees. If the six North Korean refugees mentioned in the message below were repatriated, they would be likely to face severe punishment, possibly even the death penalty.
We pass this along to you for your information and possible action to help halt China's intended illegal action.
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees
Mr. Park's letter
A group of six North Korean defectors were arrested by the Chinese police, at a
location near the border with Laos and Myanma, in Yunnan Province sometime
between May 24~26, 2002 while attempting to leave China without any guide.
They are now being taken by the Chinese government to North China for
repatriation to North Korea.
Information is available only for three of them as follows The group includes a
30 months old boy, Lee Song-yong. Ms. Park Sun-hi, the child's mother,
31 years old, was about 3 months pregnant when she defected to China for freedom
in May, 1999. She delivered her baby boy at the 292 Chinese Army Hospital in
Beijing on November 15 of the same year. The fear of arrest any time by the Chinese
authorities forced her to leave China in haste and arrive in South Korea on November
22, 2000 but without her baby, only 12 months old at that time. She is now a South
Korean citizen. She has since been desperate to bring her child to Korea. Through
her contact in China, she found a group of North Korean defectors preparing to go
to South Korea and asked the group to bring her child with them. Unfortunately, this
group has now been arrested by the Chinese authorities.
Mr. Lee Hong-gang, 48 years old, was an underground Christian in North Korea. His
father and one of two brothers were executed in North Korea for their Christian faith.
He lived with 75 years old mother, former vocalist, who remained as Christian
throughout the entire period of North Korean regime. At some indications that their
arrest and execution were imminent, they fled from North Korea in April 2000. His
mother is now missing. He would be no doubt executed if repatriated to North Korea.
Kim Mi-hwa, 30 years old woman.
They were sent to Kunmin on the morning of Thursday, May 29 and to Changchun
yesterday. Many human rights activists and organizations have already been alerted
but the Chinese are moving exceptionally fast. Prompt intervention by an international
community is called for to stop the repatriation in violation of international law."
Rgds and Thanks,
Statement Issued by Amnesty International
21 June 2002|
China: Crackdown on North Koreans Must End
Recent diplomatic incidents in embassies and consulates in China are an end
result of the Chinese authorities' continuing crackdown on North Korean asylum
seekers, Amnesty International said today. Since April, hundreds of North Koreans
have been rounded up in northeast China and forcibly repatriated without being
given access to a refugee determination procedure.
According to reports, in Jilin Province, up to 900 North Koreans were forcibly
repatriated from Longjing in April and up to 500 others from Tumen in May. In
Tumen, witnesses have reported seeing groups of North Koreans being taken
back across the border in open trucks every two or three days. Those detained
and forcibly returned are reported to include both orphan children and women
married to Chinese nationals who had settled in northeast China for a long time,
as well as recently arrived asylum seekers.
"Those pushed back over the border meet an uncertain fate. This could include
imprisonment, torture and in some cases summary execution or death in detention
from starvation and disease," Amnesty International said. "Seeking asylum in
embassies and consulates in China is virtually the last recourse left to the asylum
The renewed crackdown in northeast China has also extended to people suspected
of helping North Koreans, including members of foreign aid and religious
organizations and ethnic Koreans living in the area, many of whom were rounded
up for interrogation. Some remain in detention.
The Chinese authorities claim that all North Koreans who illegally come to China are
economic migrants, and have consistently denied them access to any refugee
determination procedure, despite evidence that many among them have genuine
claims to asylum.
Over the past two months several dozen North Koreans have sought refuge in
embassies and consulates in China, in desperate attempts to seek asylum in foreign
countries. The Chinese government has issued a notice to all embassies and
consulates in Beijing asking them to hand over any further North Korean "trespassers".
A government spokesman stated on 13 June that the incidents were "a provocation of
The international community should urge the Chinese government to allow North Koreans
to claim asylum and have their claims examined through a fair and independent procedure,
thereby avoiding future diplomatic incidents involving North Koreans in consulates and
embassies in China.
Amnesty International has written to Premier Zhu Rongji asking for protection of North
Korean refugees and asylum seekers and an end to forced repatriations. The organisation
expressed concern about six individuals, including a two-and-a-half-year-old boy, who were
detained at the end of May in South China and whose whereabouts are unknown.
Amnesty's letter to Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji
13 June 2002 |
Premier Zhu Rongji
Prime Minister's Office (Guowuyuan Zongli)
State Council (Guowuyuan)
Beijingshi 100 032
People's Republic of China
Dear Prime Minister,
Amnesty International is deeply concerned concerned about continuing reports of arrest
and forcible repatriation of North Korean refugees and asylum seekers in China.
We are particularly concerned over the plight of six North Koreans who are reported to
have been detained by police in Yunnan Province, south China, between 24 and 26 May
2002, and whose current whereabouts are unknown. They were reportedly apprehended
close to Jinghong, near the border with Myanmar and Laos, as they were attempting to
leave China. Some reports suggest that they were transferred to Kunming, the provincial
capital of Yunnan, on the morning of 29 May, and subsequently to north China, where they
were last reported to have been detained in Beijing.
The group included Lee Song-yong, a two and half year old boy. His mother was three
months pregnant when she fled to China from North Korea in May 1999. She delivered Lee
Song-yong in a hospital in Beijing in November 1999. Fearing arrest and forcible repatriation
to North Korea, she left China in late 2000, but she had to leave her baby, who was then only
12 months old, in China. She is now a permanent resident in South Korea and is desperate to
be reunited with her son. Another member of the group reportedly apprehended in Yunnan
province is Mr Lee Hong-gang, aged 48. We have received reports that his family were
underground Christians in North Korea and that his father and one of his two brothers were
executed there for their Christian faith. He fled to China from North Korea in April 2000 when
there were indications that his arrest was imminent. Various human rights organisations have
reported that North Korean Christians who have tried to flee their country face execution in
In the light of these reports, we call upon the government to clarify without delay the current
status and whereabouts of Lee Song-yong, Lee Hong-gang and the other North Koreans
reportedly detained in south China at the end of May. We also urge you to ensure that, in line
with China's obligation under Article 33 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of
Refugees, they are not forcibly returned to North Korea and that they are granted access to a
fair and independent refugee determination procedure under the auspices of the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees.
In addition to these cases, we have received reports suggesting that in April and May 2002,
hundreds of North Koreans asylum seekers were detained by police in northeast China and
forcibly returned to North Korea. According to the reports, in Jilin Province, up to 900 North
Koreans were forcibly returned from Longjing in April and up to 500 others from Tumen in May.
In Tumen, witnesses have reported seeing groups of North Koreans being taken back across
the border in open trucks every two or three days. Those detained and forcibly returned are
reported to include both orphan children and women married to Chinese nationals who had
settled in northeast China for a long time, as well as recently arrived asylum seekers.
In a letter to President Jiang Zemin in August 2001 (a copy of which is enclosed), Amnesty
International had expressed concern that North Koreans who had sought refuge in northeast
China were being denied access to any refugee determination procedure and many forcibly
returned to North Korea, where they faced human rights violations, including arbitrary detention
or imprisonment, torture and ill-treatment, and in some cases summary executions or death in
detention from starvation and disease.
Amnesty International calls again on the Chinese government to ensure that North Korean
refugees and asylum seekers enjoy full protection of their human rights in China. This protection
should include taking all appropriate measures to stop immediately the detention and forcible
return of North Korean refugees and asylum seekers, and to ensure that their rights are respected,
including access to a fair and independent refugee determination procedure.
We would appreciate hearing from your government about the current status and whereabouts of
Lee Song-yong, Lee Hong-gang and the other North Koreans apprehended in South China at the
end of May.
For Irene Khan, Secretary General