June 05, 2013

PRESS RELEASE: HRNK Calls on President Obama to Riase with President Xi Jinping of China the Protection of North Korean Refugees

Dear Colleagues,

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), a non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C., calls on President Obama in his upcoming talks with President Xi Jinping, to urge China to halt the forcible repatriation of North Korean refugees.  Only last week, nine North Korean teenagers attempting to find their way to freedom were arrested in Laos and forcibly repatriated by China to North Korea, where they are certain to be subjected to persecution and punishment.

HRNK also takes the occasion of President Xi’s visit to the United States to release the text of a letter it sent to him May 7. The letter calls upon China to adopt a “new approach” toward North Koreans escaping into its country, one in line with China’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention and international human rights law.

HRNK’s letter was  signed by The Honorable Winston Lord (former U. S. Ambassador to China and HRNK Board member), together with HRNK co-chairs Roberta Cohen (former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights) and Andrew Natsios (former USAID Administrator), and Greg Scarlatoiu, HRNK executive director. The organization is still hopeful of receiving a reply.

The letter called upon China to adhere to the fundamental refugee principle of non-refoulement and set up a refugee determination process for North Koreans in cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It called for new legislation incorporating China’s obligations under the Refugee Convention; and for a moratorium on deportations until China can ensure that North Koreans will not be returned to conditions of danger.  It called upon China to cooperate with other countries ready to admit North Koreans. It warned that “China’s continued deportations of North Koreans despite [international] appeals, and its collaboration with North Korea’s police in tracking down escapees, has cast an unfortunate shadow over the reputation of the People’s Republic.” The new President, it noted, had the opportunity to change this by embarking on a new policy based on "the rule of law."

HRNK was established in 2001 by a distinguished group of former U.S. government officials, Korea experts, and human rights and humanitarian specialists deeply concerned about the “grave, widespread and systematic human rights violations” reported in North Korea. It seeks to draw attention to human rights conditions in North Korea by publishing well-documented reports and papers, convening conferences, testifying at national and international fora, and seeking creative ways to end the isolation of the North Korean people.

HRNK’s reports and more detailed information on our activities are available on HRNK’s website: www.hrnk.org

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