North Korean Man Begs China Not to Deport Family Back to North Korea
By Faith Magbanua, November 15, 2017 03:11 AM
A man from North Korea seeks sympathy from Chinese President Xi Jinping to not forcibly deport his wife and young son back to North Korea, saying that they may face imprisonment or death if sent home.
After secretly crossing the border, the woman and her four-year-old son are considered to have been among a group of 10 North Koreans detained in China last week.
The man, who asked to be identified only as Lee, fled to South Korea in 2015. His plea was recorded in a video message which was passed to the BBC.
He said his wife and son would "either face execution or wither away in a political prison camp" if sent back to North Korea.
"I wish China's Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump would think of my child as their grandchild and send my son to the free country, South Korea," he said.
"Please help us. Save my family from repatriation. As the father, I beg the two leaders to help my family. Please help us."
Lee said that he was images of his young son being detained haunted him.
"I can almost hear my baby calling my name," he said. "I can see my baby in that cold cell, crying out for his father. I can't just stand by doing nothing."
On November 4, 2017, the group of 10 defectors was arrested in a raid on a safe house in Shenyang in Liaoning province, north-east China.
Meanwhile, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a news briefing that she was unaware of details of the case. She said China consistently upholds the handling of such matters in accordance with domestic and international law and humanitarian principles.
However, the arrests come amidst a crackdown by China on North Korean defectors. Chinese security services have apprehended at least 49 North Koreans in the three months between July and September, and according to the charity Human Rights Watch - it is a significant jump from the 51 people recorded as having been detained over the entire previous 12 months.
At least nine of those arrested over the past three months are known to have been forcibly repatriated back to North Korea, according to Human Rights Watch.
"North Korean refugees and their families overseas deserve international support," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for the charity, said in a statement.
"Governments around the world and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees should call on China to stop sending North Koreans back across the border to face torture, forced labor, sexual abuse, and worse," he said.
Lord Alton, who is chair of the UK's cross-party parliamentary group on North Korea, told the BBC that he had urged the British government to intervene.
"Anyone who has read the United Nations' report on North Korea's crimes against humanity knows that these escapees face torture, imprisonment, forced labor or even execution," he said.
"That's why I have asked the British Government to urge the Chinese authorities not to send these escapees back to North Korea."
On the other hand, China forcibly banishes North Koreans despite being a party to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, which obliges signatories not to return refugees if it may put them at risk of persecution or torture.
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