Tag Archives: UNHCR
Refugees Need Immediate Help
Since Feb. 8, more than 30 North Korean refugees have reportedly been arrested and held by Chinese police in Shenyang, Yanji and Changchun. Most of these refugees wish to go to South Korea where their family members have resettled. One of them, a teenage boy, has siblings in South Korea but no other family members in North Korea.
Kato’s Speech Text
Honored members of the human rights awards screening committee of the Tokyo Bar Association, and ladies and gentlemen gathered here today, I would like to express profound thanks to the esteemed Tokyo Bar Association for presenting the human rights awards for 2008. We at Life Funds for North Korean Refugees are deeply honored to receive your award this year.
Speakers included: Willy Fautre (Human Rights without Frontiers, President); Vincent Brossel (Reporters without Borders); David Hawk (human rights investigator and advocate and author of “the Hidden Gulag”); Chuck Downs (US Committee for NK HR); and Hiroshi Kato (Life Funds for North Korean Refugees).
Text of Kato Hiroshi’s Speech
It is my privilege and honor to present this speech here at the North Korean Human Rights Campaign 2008
Our main purposes at Life Funds for North Korean Refugees are: first, to provide humanitarian aid and protect the human rights of North Korea defectors in China and Southeast Asia; and second, to reach out to people in North Korea with food and medicine.
Out of 100,000 North Korean refugees hiding out in Northeastern China, about 70-100 are under LFNKR’s protection as of July 2008.
In my opinion, the worst form of human rights violation is human trafficking. The number of human trafficking victims is not yet clearly known, but we estimate the number to be more than 70% of all defectors. An investigation conducted in the villages where our shelters are located showed that 10-20% of all villagers are North Korean women who have been sold to Chinese men in the village. Out of 60,000-70,000 women defectors, at least half are of childbearing age.
Babies between Han Chinese and ethnic Koreans will reach 30,000-35,000, most of whom are unregistered.
The youngest victim of human trafficking I have met was 8 years old at the time she was sold. She was brought up in an ethnic Korean family in Heilong City, Jilin Province, but was sold for 1,500 RMB to an ethnic Chinese man at the age of fourteen. She gave birth at the age of 19. After the baby was born, she was sold again by a broker to a different man, and unfortunately I do not know where she is now. Girls being sold by a broker after childbirth are now very common to see.
The price of women varies: usually 5,000-10,000 RMB (approximately $500-1,000 US dollars), for girls up to the age of 20; 3,000-5,000 RMB (or $300-500 US dollars), for up to the age of 30; 2,000-2,500 RMB ($200-250 USD) for up to the age of 40 with a child; and 500-1,000 RMB (or $50-100 US dollars) for children.
However, this year, the price has increased. A woman in her 20s is sold at the price of 20,000 RMB because the number of female North Korean defectors is decreasing. North Korean women seem hesitant to escape the country due to the crackdown operation for the security of the Beijing Olympic Games, as well as forced repatriation that entails serious threats to life upon being returned to North Korea.
The trafficking of North Korean women goes back to 1985 when it was not yet as systematic. It was mere match-making organized by a broker for a rural Chinese man who could not marry in an orthodox way. At that time, the Chinese government welcomed them, and there was neither arrest nor forced repatriation. (But this has now become an organized business-like activity.)
Young women from three provinces in Northeast China that were excluded from China’s open economy reform policy started to move to the Southern China Economic Zone, Japan and Korea to find work. As a result, the female population in these rural areas has decreased considerably. The demand for North Korean women naturally became greater. The role of young North Korean women in replacing ethnic Chinese women was considered significant. The brokers taking advantage of the situation started to appear during this time and it became more organized and business-like.
In the late 1990s, the food rationing system of North Korea collapsed.
North Koreans seeking food started to escape to China, and from 1997 there was a massive influx of people from North Korea into China.
Ethnic Koreans in China provided their starving brethren with food and clothing. However, due to some people trying to take advantage of the goodwill of these ethnic Chinese, and an increased crime rate, the Chinese government started to strengthen the policy concerning North Korea defectors.
In 2000, trafficking of North Korean women became more serious. More women had risked their lives escaping to China and fell into the clutches of brokers. The reports made by staff members in charge of our shelters outlines many of these cases.
The Chinese police, in secret communication with the North Korean National Security Agency, has prosecuted these women who are illegally married to rural Chinese men. If a woman who had a child at the time of marriage is prosecuted, then the child no longer receives any protection and becomes an orphan. The child usually survives by helping with farming, taking care of cows in return for room and board.
The children of North Korean women sold to Chinese men face a bleak future. An infant can choose neither his or her own country nor parents. A mother has no choice but to sell herself.
Because the stay of these women is illegal their children are also stateless. They are not Chinese and not North Koreans either. They have no right to education or anything else. They have no human rights and are staying illegally. These children are languishing in extreme poverty.
Early last year, the mother of 5-year-old Kim Yong-soon was arrested and repatriated to North Korea. Her crime? Leaving the starvation in North Korea and seeking survival in China.
But once this young woman had escaped North Korea six years ago, she was quickly sold into a forced marriage to a Chinese man, and just as quickly became pregnant. This is how she came to give birth to daughter Kim Yong-soon. The daughter, Yong-soon is now being supported under LFNKR’s foster parent program.
Our people, the LFNKR local staff in China, reported to us that it will be impossible for her to return again, since this is her third repatriation.
You know, you have to wonder why it is that Chinese government policies show no mercy to families. They callously tear them apart, separating mothers and children with no regard to human feeling.
In Yanji, Longjin, and other cities near the border between China and North Korea, the two countries have intensified their joint crackdown.
North Korean authorities provide Chinese security police with information on North Korean defectors, and the Chinese police follow up relentlessly. These police personnel are highly motivated — their government is paying high bounties. For each North Korean refugee they arrest, someone puts 2,000 RMB in their pocket. That bounty payment equals the monthly salary of most university graduates in China.
Over the years, human rights NGOs, International organizations and foreign governments have made numerous appeals. They have asked the government of China about this issue of North Korean defectors in China.
The Chinese government has ignored these appeals. In fact, they have never bothered to respond at all, and meanwhile they continue to forcibly return North Korean refugees to face the certainty of brutal persecution in North Korea. This is an obvious and blatant defiance of humanitarianism. The Chinese government clearly has no interest in what the international community thinks.
UNHCR’s appeals to the government of China are always ignored. Beijing has also ignored the appeals of the South Korean government on behalf of aid workers arrested for helping North Korean refugees.
The two lessons to be learned from past incidents are these: first, China responds only to a strong show of force. And second, the last thing that works with the Chinese government is an appeal to humanitarian consideration. China is submissive to the stronger, but shows no mercy to the weaker.
The North Korean defectors are in a position of strength when they are in the custody of foreign embassies and weak if they are outside the custody of a strong power.
I now publicly issue a call to all South Korean activists and North Korean defectors. From this moment forward, I urge you to direct your efforts to collecting evidence, testimony and information that provides full details for the international community in general and the UN Special Rapporteur, in particular.
In addition, we all should take this occasion to acknowledge, with profound thanks, all the efforts that have led to successfully exposing North Korean Crimes against Humanity. We can be proud of the widespread call for justice that was demonstrated by the passage of the North Korea Human Rights Act in the US Congress, the series of resolutions adopted by the UN, among many others, and the resolution on human rights in DPRK, which the UN General Assembly approved last December.
As a next step, I would like to see the UN Security Council raise the issue of creating an International human rights investigation team to be dispatched to North Korea. I do recognize, however, that the chances of that happening are quite slim with Russia and China on the Council. They are very likely to block any such efforts.
Since North Korea’s crimes are of the most serious nature, we cannot just stop here. I suggest that we approach the International Criminal Court by presenting hard evidence, verified information and solid proof. Obtaining this kind of evidence and proof from inside North Korea is definitely a realistic possibility because, in recent years, many North Korean officials have grown increasingly demoralized as they face mounting personal danger in the ongoing power struggles.
We should redouble our efforts now toward obtaining undeniable and credible information from inside North Korea — information that is so strong and so convincing that it must be taken to the International Criminal Court.
In closing my speech today, and with your permission, I wish to personally call upon the entire international community to intervene decisively in the North Korean situation. It is a matter of international responsibility — clearly so.
Let us, therefore, create a living reality that some day all innocent North Korean prisoners, as well as all South Korean and Japanese abductees, will know for a fact that they were never for a single moment forgotten by the people of the world.
To the President of China
Dear President Hu Jintao,
The international community continues to watch in horror as the Chinese government tracks down and deports North Korean refugees in advance of the upcoming Beijing Olympics. This practice is a stain on the face of China. We urge you to immediately cease arresting and repatriating North Korean refugees.
“Protect North Korean Refugee Human Rights”
This organization’s Secretary General, Kato Hiroshi,addressed the 4th annual meeting of International Parliamentarians’ Coalition for North Korean Refugees’ Human Rights (IPCNKR). Representatives totalled 111 and came from 36 different countries at this year’s conference, which was held in Japan.
Three to Four Months of Orientation Ahead
The three young North Koreans who were imprisoned in Laos were charged with illegal entry into and exit from the country and given three-month sentences. After completing their sentences in the capital Vientiane, they remained in custody because as minors, they needed a guardian but none was forthcoming.
Memorial shot together with Maisai Immigration vice director and members of Fact Finding Mission in front of Maisai Immigration Police Building.
From February 25 to March 1 of this year, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees was part of an international fact-finding mission to Thailand, the purpose of which was to ascertain the current situation of North Korean refugees in Thailand. To this end, we met with the Bangkok office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the immigration police at Maesai (near the Laos/Thai/Myanmar border), and Thai human rights lawyers, as well as North Korean defectors and some of the activists assisting them in Thailand.
Citizens Worldwide Mail Protests
This coming winter, the number of starving North Korean refugees escaping into China is expected to increase, particularly in light of the major flooding in North Korea.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government continues to hunt down and repatriate North Korean refugees, while also arresting humanitarian aid workers. We must persist in our protests against Chinese government actions in order to save the starving North Korean refugees.
December 2 has been set as a day for simultaneous worldwide protest. Here in Japan, LFNKR and other groups involved in the rescue of North Korean refugees will stage a protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in this country.
You can join us by sending protest email to the Chinese embassy in your country.
Here is a list of embassy addresses.
And below is a sample letter you can use as a guideline when writing your own letter.
Dear President Hu Jintao,
Please immediately stop arresting and repatriating North Korean refugees.
On Dec. 2, many citizens’ groups in Europe, the USA, South Korea, and Japan are simultaneously doing joint protests in front of Chinese embassies in their countries. The purpose that we share, which surpasses race, religion, and ideology, is to help the lives and human rights of the people seeking to escape from starvation and oppression in North Korea.
It is widely known that yearly tens of thousands of North Korean defectors have escaped into China for more than a decade. The Chinese government, however, has ignored the voices of the international community urging your government to immediately stop repatriating North Korean refugees and to cease arresting the aid workers who try to help them.
It is also widely known that a staggering number of North Korean women are victims of human trafficking in China and that even when they marry Chinese men and bear children, most of them are still arrested and sent back to North Korea. The children born of these marriages often remain without nationality and are therefore denied an education. Your government continues mercilessly depriving those innocent children of their mothers and of their basic human rights.
These are not only inhumane acts, they violate the Refugees Convention to which your country is signatory. This fact seriously dishonors China in the international community.
I urge the Chinese government to:
- immediately stop arresting, detaining or repatriating North Korean refugees and duly to protect them in your country under the supervision of UNHCR or other related international organization, and to assure them safe passage to third countries if they wish to leave.
- immediately free the currently detained North Korean refugees and humanitarian aid workers, and
- grant Chinese nationality to North Korean defectors who marry Chinese citizens as well as to their children, and allow them to settle in China.
Last year, a single charter flight from Vietnam carried 460 North Koreans into South Korea. This case had a strong impact on the international community and spotlighted North Korea’s human rights problems. It remains to be seen, however, what lessons it has taught the South Korean government, which fears a similar incident occurring in Thailand.
175 NK Refugees Still Need Help
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) has jointly submitted the following Appeal to the Immigration Authorities of Thailand.
We urge you to send another letter to the Thai Ambassador in your country requesting that these refugees be safely released to South Korea or other country where they will be safe from repatriation to North Korea.
NGO Members Accused of Abduction
The people of Japan were amazed February 7 when television and newspapers announced that North Korea had accused Kato Hiroshi and 6 other Japanese NGO members of abducting North Korea citizens. Kato is Secretary-General of our NGO, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR). The accusations came during the 3-day bilateral talks with Japan that, it was hoped, would help to resolve the ongoing dispute over Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents during the last three decades. The talks were held in Beijing.
Women Sold, Babies often Abandoned
The following report is by an LFNKR staff member who visited the border area of North Korea and China in January 2006. The Tumen River running along the border was completely frozen. Standing on the riverside on the China side we could see Namyang, North Hamgyong on the other side, in North Korea. There were lookout posts about every 100 meters. Clearly, the crackdown on North Koreans attempting to escape into China has been stepped up even further.
Jim Butterworth’s Documentary of Conscience
Thank you very much. First, I would like to thank the IPCNKR for this opportunity to show “Seoul Train” here today, but especially for your outstanding efforts to improve the human rights of North Koreans. It is indeed an honor to be here before such an esteemed audience and alongside other speakers that are truly heroes in this cause.
Refugees Overshadowed by 6-Party Talks
The Six-Party talks in Beijing to discuss the elimination of nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula are dangerously close to overshadowing the struggles of five North Korean refugees, whose stories are being dwarfed and in danger of being forgotten. On July 27th, LFNKR received information regarding five North Koreans now seeking to be declared refugees.
Current Situation of North Korean Refugees
Recently, the world has witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of North Korean refugees who, rather than continuing to hide in China, are choosing to escape to other Asian countries. Escape destinations include Mongolia, Russia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar.
Chinese border guard on horseback fired on unarmed NK refugees
Reports have reached our organization that a 20-year-old North Korean defector was shot and killed on 2 April when a group of 24 defectors were stopped while attempting to cross the border from China into Mongolia.
Six members of the group, all men, succeeded in reaching Mongolia. The 17 defectors arrested include a 2-year-old child and a woman six months pregnant. The defectors have begun a hunger strike, insisting on relocation to a third country.
Reports Indicate New Spirit of Protest
According to The Commission to Help North Korean Refugees (a South Korean based NGO), news reports are beginning to filter out of China about a hunger strike among North Korean detainees who are being held in a facility preparatory to their shipment back home where they are sure to face prison or worse.
Europe showing more concern for North Korean Refugees
Our group’s secretary general, Mr. Hiroshi Kato, and Mr. Sang Hun Kim, prominent South Korean human rights activist, returned from Europe where they met with leaders of several institutions. During their visit they met strongly positive responses, thanks to direct help from Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Human Rights Without Frontiers, who organized the meetings.
More European officials questioning North Korea
Earlier this month, a BBC documentary revealed strong evidence that North Korea is running chemical and biological experiments on political prisoners and their entire families.
Mr. Kato Hiroshi, secretary-general of our organization, together with Mr. Sang Hun Kim, Korean human rights activist, flew to Europe to meet with UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, as well as NGO officials and parliamentary members in a number of countries. The purpose of the trip was to explore greater European involvement in and support for an end to Chinese maltreatment and repatriation of North Korean refugees.
Ever since Takayuki Noguchi was arrested illegally by China in early December 2003, fears have mounted that he could be tried and sentenced to prison time, unlike previous aid workers who had been caught helping North Korean refugees, interrogated then released.
However, thanks to the intervention of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Noguchi’s mother and one of his aunts were allowed to visit him briefly in Nanning.
Is China Really a Part of the International Community?
On Dec. 11, 2003 a Chinese court utterly ignored pleas from the International community and its own country’s pledge to uphold the Convention on Refugees. That court sentenced aid worker Choi Yong-hun to 5 years in prison. At the same time, photojournalist Deok Jae-hyun received a sentence of 2 years in a Chinese prison. The crime of these two men? Helping their fellow man. Read the background details below.