Asylum Seekers Arrested inside American School

Chinese police take women and children away

On Monday, the 27th of September, 8 North Korean women and children entered the Elementary school building of the Shanghai American School, where school administrators called Chinese Police, then surrendered the refugees to the authorities.

Below is an email our organization received directly from an eyewitness at the school, describing what happened. That message is followed by a statement apparently issued by the school administrator.

Student’s Email

Hello, I’m a student at the Shanghai International School. I wasn’t sure if you knew that earlier this week on Monday at approximately 3:40PM, 8 North Koreans sought asylum at our school. I wasn’t there during the incident, but they sent out a letter to our parents saying that they were required to contact the police and informed the 8 refugees that we would not stop them if they tried to escape before the police got to the school, but they didn’t leave and by 5 PM, the police arrived.

They’ve now been taken into custody of the police and as merely a student, I have no idea what will happen next to them. I thought it’d be good to inform an organization such as yours about the incident.

Thank you for your time.

Another Report

Eye witnesses tell the following story:

They were traumatized and in shock. The teachers and students had to stand by helplessly and watch the police physically remove these women and their children from the school. There was lots of yelling and screaming and crying as they were dragged away and put into police vans.

Administrator’s Official Report From Shanghai

Good Evening, 

At 3:40 PM today (9/27/04), eight people entered SAS by climbing over the fence opposite the Elementary School’s main entrance. These eight, then proceeded to the Elementary School reception area, where they approached faculty and staff members with leaflets that stated that they were North Koreans seeking asylum on our campus.

After being contained by our security guards within the reception area of the Elementary School, the local police were called. In the meantime, the group was informed through a translator that SAS does not have status that would allow us to grant political asylum and that according to local and consulate regulations, we are required to inform the local authorities. We informed them, however, that as an educational institution, we would not prevent them from leaving the campus before the police arrived.

By 5.10 PM, a large number of police officials had arrived at the school. The Superintendent ensured that all concerned parties (School Board, Consulate and Public Security Bureau) were informed. In addition, he made every effort to facilitate a humane outcome between the local police and the members of the group. The situation, however, fell within the jurisdiction of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) and the group was physically removed from the campus.

While there was no visible threat to our students, faculty or property, this incident reinforces the importance of security at SAS. To address issues such as this, our recently formed Security Committee will review our current security systems and procedure and make appropriate recommendations to the School Board and Administration.

Shanghai American School
258 Jin Feng Lu,
Minhang district
Shanghai, China 201201
The above statement was quoted from the Chosun Journal website at:

Comment by LFNKR

We wish to thank the persons who sent their email reports of this incident directly to our organization.

The Chinese authorities must immediately release these women and children, and the US Government and US Embassy must immediately confirm the details and protect the asylum seekers.

Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) received on Sept. 29 the emails quoted above from Shanghai regarding the eight North Koreans who were seized when they tried to seek asylum at the Shanghai International American School. There have been no further reports of their situation since the local police carried them away.

LFNKR urges every person around the world with an interest in human rights, whether journalist, NGO member, or citizen, to hold the governments of both the United States and China accountable for the safety of these North Korean refugees. We urge the Chinese authorities to immediately release them and strongly suggest that the US government and related authorities take immediate action to protect these women and children.

Lastly, LFNKR urges the administrators of the Shanghai American School in the strongest possible terms to understand the plight of the North Korean people who flee into China and ask them to take immediate steps to assure the future protection of human rights and the exercise of humanitarianism, rather than merely complying meekly with regulations.

Life Funds for North Korean Refugees
Kenkichi Nakadaira
Board Chairman
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees
A-101, 2-2-8 Nishikata, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0024
Tel/Fax: 03-3815-8127