International Protest to Save North Korean Refugees

North Korea possesses one of the worst human rights records in the world. Their crimes include practically every core issue that Jubilee Campaign was formed to oppose. Prisoners of conscience, vicious detention, torture, religious persecution, forced abortion, human trafficking, North Korea does it all. That is why Jubilee Campaign is a charter member of the North Korean Freedom Coalition and why we were glad to participate in the International Protest to Save North Korean Refugees.

Out of the Frying Pan: Fleeing North Korea

North Koreans live on the whim of their totalitarian government. The government brutally oppresses independent thought or religious belief of any kind. Government mismanagement and an obsession with nuclear weapons development has led to shortages and widespread famines. When the socialist system runs low on food, government offices simply stop giving rations to “less productive” members of society, such the elderly or women. Whether for ideology or food, every year thousands of North Koreans reach the point where they can either flee or die. Those who make it out of the country alive are the North Korean Refugees.

Into the Fire: China’s Repatriation Policy

If these desperate refugees make it across the border they face grave danger from the Chinese government. Any North Korean refugee that falls into the hands of the Chinese government will be repatriated to North Korea where they will face public execution or a lingering death in concentration camps. This government policy means that North Korean women cannot go to the police making them extremely vulnerable to human traffickers. Oftentimes the very men who the refugees pay to smuggle them into China turn out to be vicious kidnappers. The women are taken deep into China and sold as sex slaves. If a woman fights too hard, the traffickers can simply turn her over to the police. While there are success stories of remarkable women who escaped their masters and fled China, the vast majority of North Korean refugees suffer under this brutal policy.

The Protest

For some years now, the North Korean Freedom Coalition, led by Suzanne Scholte has held annual protests for North Korean Refugees outside of the Chinese Embassy. This year we held a special international protest. At noon on September 22nd, Chinese embassies and consulates in dozens of cities around the world received petitions protesting their treatment of the North Korean Refugees. In many cities including Washington D.C. that petition was accompanied by a gathering in protest of China’s brutal policy.

Speaking Out

The DC event began with speeches from NGO representatives such as Peter Kang and our very own Gregory Treat, whose speech is below. Then the defectors and refugees got up and told their stories. The firsthand witness lent weight to what we all were saying. Then we marched in front of the embassy chanting our pleas for justice. Our request is simple: China should stop sending North Koreans to their deaths. They should allow refugees to pass through their nation to South Korea or other nations that are eager grant them shelter. We concluded with a prayer for the nations of China and North Korea.

Our Thanks on an International Effort

Our protest was joined by protests all around the world. 26 cities in 13 countries joined in the noble effort. Jubilee Campaign received specific thanks and recognition from Suzanne for mobilizing coordinators in cities and countries that she never expected. So we want to extend that thanks to you all. You stood up and helped us push for justice and freedom against one of the worst regimes in the known world. One day the corrupt communist government of North Korea will fall. With your support Jubilee Campaign can continue to work until that day, and for that you have our sincerest thanks.

Prepared Remarks

Thank you Suzanne for introducing me. As Jubilee Campaign’s representative I am honored to be here, to add my voice to the chorus of protests both here and in dozens of cities around the world. I am honored but I am also compelled to join this protest.

We are all compelled because the fate of the North Korean refugees demands protest. As other speakers will discuss, those who flee from North Korea into China suffer a multitude of torments. They suffer without any hope of legal redress because China’s secret agreement with North Korea turns justice on its head. Instead of punishing human traffickers and criminals, the Korean victims suffer brutal imprisonment until they are repatriated to face torture and death. China’s actions clearly violate the pledge they made to protect refugees by signing the UN Convention relating to the status of Refugees and its Optional Protocol.

Let me emphasize however, that we are not merely protesting China and its vicious treatment of refugees. We are protesting the brutal regime that forced countless thousands of North Koreans to flee in the first place. We are here protesting in front of the Chinese Embassy because they aid and abet North Korea’s human rights abuses. We are here because by supporting North Korea, China has become an accomplice to crimes against humanity!

Report on North Korea read like a scene from humanity’s worst nightmare. North Korea replaces freedom of the press with a constant barrage of state propaganda. A universal environment of fear where families and friends report on each other’s ideological purity replaces freedom of speech. Freedom of movement, the oldest definition of liberty, does not exist. Religious belief of any kind or creed is itself a crime against the state. Government mismanagement and the Kim family’s obsession with nuclear weapons cause shortages and famines.

North Korea denies its people rights fundamental to civilization. In some ways, the people of North Korea do not posses legal rights, for their very lives can be taken on the whim of a government official or the rumor of a denouncing witness. In many cases torture and execution take place without any kind of trial or legal proceeding to say nothing of genuine due process.

Those not summarily executed are sentenced to concentration camps to be tortured, experimented on, or simply worked to death. The men and women in these camps become crippled in body and mind. They are barely recognizable as human beings and the guards treat them like beasts. The official policy of North Korea prohibits sexual contact with political prisoners because that would acknowledge their humanity and that is something that the government of North Korea is not prepared to do. Innocent children born in these camps or sentenced by North Korea’s guilt by association laws experience the same treatment with virtually no chance of release. Finally, as we listen to the firsthand testimony we must remember that this is only the tip of the iceberg. The North Korean government has committed bloodshed on a genocidal scale and the victims number in the millions.

For too long the international community has ignored the crimes inflicted on the people of North Korea. Earlier this month a coalition gathered in Tokyo to call for a UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate North Korea’s crimes. While North Korea remains one of the most closed and secretive countries in the world, the testimony of thousands of North Korean refugees and defectors has established the truth. The policies of the government of North Korea are nothing less than crimes against humanity, and those who planned, ordered and carried out those policies are barbarians.

So I ask the government of China, why do you partner with barbarians? Why do you shield and enable this rogue state? Among the many crimes committed by the North Korean government, they have a vicious policy of racial superiority, which particularly targets those of ethnic Chinese descent. Why do you defend and enable an ideology that views the Chinese people as subhuman?

I want to make the choice clear for the Chinese government. There are two paths in front the People’s Republic of China. On the one hand there is the path of progress, of trade, of presence and prominence in the international community. There are the statements that China has made concerning human rights. The covenants China has joined of its own free will. This path leads to peace, prosperity, and the respect of the world community as China lives up to its potential as a leader in world affairs.

On the other hand is a path of deceit, of secret agreements in violation of international treaties. In this path China wastes its influence protecting a rogue state, which despises the Chinese people. This path marginalizes China as it continues to pursue an outdated Cold War era foreign policy, in a time when globalization makes those tactics obsolete. This path leads to suspicion, division, and protests, which shame China in front of the world.

China can choose to respect its covenants and embrace its position in the international community or it can choose to cower in the shadows with a rogue state that receives no respect because it deserves none. We are here, on this day, in this city and around the world, to send a message to the government of China. Two paths are in front of you, and the time to choose is now.

Thank you.

Room for Improvement At the State Department

Official Portrayal of Nigerian Violence Still Leaves Much To Be Desired

Over the past decade thousands of Nigerian’s have lost their lives to violent Muslim extremists. While endemic violence victimizes Christians throughout the north, much of the violence seems to be linked to events in Plateau State, the northern-most Christian majority state. The Nigerian government’s refusal to prosecute Muslims who commit crimes against Christians has created a climate of impunity, which vastly compounds the problem. Jubilee Campaign’s work to end the violence in Nigeria takes many forms. Earlier this year it took us to the International Criminal Court at the Hague in the Netherlands. Another form of our work involves providing clear and accurate information on human rights abuses to those such as the U.S. Department of State who report on these issues.

As we have discussed in the past, the formal reports released by the U.S. Department of State play a critical role in human rights work on a variety of issues, including religious freedom. Therefore any errors or omissions in the reports seriously hamper the work of the human rights community. Jubilee Campaign vigilantly urges that the State Department include the information we provide in their reports, but it is an uphill battle. As an example, this “half report” includes strengthened, but still problematic language on the violence in Nigeria’s Plateau State. See this paragraph from the Nigeria Chapter.

The lack of justice and reconciliation in Plateau State after the 2008 violence facilitated the eruption of new communal killings there beginning in January. The violence caused hundreds of deaths, extensive property damage, and the displacement of thousands of residents. NGOs and traditional leaders led conflict resolution efforts to reduce sectarian violence in their communities with only limited success. The government prosecuted few suspects. With little fear of reprisal from the judicial system, the violence continued in the state. Some months experienced more violence than others, but violence has remained at an elevated level since 2008.

Jubilee Campaign hails the State Department’s recognition of the pervasive and deadly climate of impunity in Nigeria. During ten years of arson, assault, manslaughter and murder, only a handful of prosecutions have taken place. In 2010 barely 15 convictions occurred for the hundreds of lives lost that year and these are the first known convictions since the first wave of violence started in September of 2000.

However, the State Department’s version of events leaves much to be desired. Despite the decade-long history of inter-religious violence in Plateau, this report only acknowledges the last major cycle from 2008 to the present, which ignores the history and true genesis of the crisis. We urge the State Department to fairly and fully report the acts of violence committed by Muslim extremists against the Christian community. To facilitate this, in March of 2011 Jubilee Campaign held a Congressional Briefing on the violence in Nigeria, which was attended by a representative from the IRF office. We hope and expect that the State Department’s next report will include the Christmas Eve Terror bombings of 2010, the January and March 2011 outbreaks of violence and the September 11, 2011 bombings in Jos. We ask that the State Department recognize and clearly describe the manner in which Muslim extremists plan and initiate these waves of violence.

We also object to the word “reprisal” as used by the State Department. Vigilante groups may commit reprisals and establish a tenuous peace based on fear, but governments have the responsibility to prosecute criminals in accordance with due process of law. We believe that faithful prosecution and fair reparations, not fear of reprisal, will bring an end to the violence and allow for true healing and stability.

In light of the ties between Nigerian Muslim extremists and international terrorism, Jubilee Campaign believes the situation in Nigeria demands a very serious response. This violence and lack of security threatens the very fabric of the nation of Nigeria, with chilling parallels to Sudan. The situation in Nigeria demands action and in a more just world, the State Department would follow USCIRF’s recommendation and designate Nigeria a “Country of Particular Concern.” In the world we live in, it is unlikely that the U.S. Government will lay sanctions on the fourth largest supplier of oil to America. Nigeria’s prominence as a source of U.N. peacekeeper troops makes it difficult for the international community to bring effective pressure to bear. However, even within the constraints of our political reality, is accurate reporting too much to ask?

China’s One-Man Prison Project

China Creates Small Prison Specifically To Hold Chen Guangcheng

We have received grave news about Chen Guangcheng from our friends at Women’s Rights Without Frontiers. The Chinese government plans to transfer Chen to a small building, which they can guard easier. The illusion that Chen is only under ‘house arrest’ grows thin and Jubilee Campaign is very concerned for his well-being.

We earnestly solicit your prayers for Chen and his family. The Chinese government continues to deprive Chen of food and medical attention in an effort to break his spirit and send a message to all those who would dare oppose their murderous regime.

We urge you to read the press release below and watch some of the video’s links provided by our friend Reggie Littlejohn. We ask you consider adding your name to the petition seeking Chen Guangcheng’s release.

Personal Prison Prepared for Forced Abortion Opponent Chen

Blind forced abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng and his wife, Yuan Weijing, will be transferred to a small prison built specifically for them, according to a Radio Free Asia report.  Activist He Peirong stated that the couple will be forcibly removed from their home and transferred to a building “which basically amounts to a jail” so that authorities can “keep tighter controls on them.”  They will be separated from their five-year-old daughter in the move.  Their young son, living with relatives, was reportedly strip-searched leaving the family home.

Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, decried this action.  “The Chinese Communist Party has already beaten and tortured Chen and his wife, denied them medical treatment, stolen their television, phone, computer and books, and appears to be slowly starving them to death.  The couple is constantly surrounded by 66 guards and multiple surveillance cameras tracking their every move inside and outside their home.  Why is the CCP so threatened by a blind, sick, penniless man that they have to build a personal prison for him?  They seek to make an example of Chen, to demonstrate how they will punish anyone who challenges their forced abortion policies.  But they are really making an example of their own, shameful brutality.”

Bob Fu, President of China Aid, said “The treatment of Chen Guangcheng and the torture and disappearance of human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, are unconscionable.  These are not the acts of a government that respects the rule of law.  Since the beginning of this year, the CCP has launched an offensive against human rights lawyers and activists, religious leaders, house church Christians and even dissident artists.  We urge the release of those unjustly imprisoned, tortured and disappeared.”

Chen was arrested in 2006 for exposing evidence that 130,000 forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations were performed on women in Linyi County, Shandong Province in a single year.  Time Magazine named him one of “2006’s Top 100 People Who Shape Our World.” Chen spent four years in prison. Since his release, he continues under house arrest.  He and his wife have been beaten repeatedly and denied medical treatment.

To watch “Free Chen Guangcheng!” (three minutes), click here

To sign a petition to free Chen, click here

Women’s Rights Without Frontiers and China Aid are spearheading a campaign to free Chen Guangcheng.  The Jubilee Campaign and World Youth Alliance are partners in this effort.

To see the Radio Free Asia report, click here

Support the Protection of Religious Minorities

Libyan Rebels Edge Toward Shari’a Law

You are all aware of the armed conflict occurring in the nation of Libya. Over the past months and weeks the West watched ‘freedom-loving’ revolutionaries push back the forces of the socialist dictator Moammar Gadhafi. However, as with the rest of the Arab Spring movements, the Libyan movement contains strongly Islamist elements.

While the total number of extremists among the Libyan revolutionaries cannot be verified, this article in the Wall Street Journal notes the presence of Islamic extremists in key military posts responsible for training and commanding the rebels.

No one, at least in the human rights community, denies the injustice and human rights violations committed by Gadhafi’s regime. However, Jubilee Campaign fears that any government set up along Islamic principles will prove to be no better than the dictatorship.

A potential draft for the Libyan Constitution released online explicitly affirms Shari’a as the “principle source of legislation.” The validity of this Constitutional draft cannot be confirmed, and it will be some time before Libya can conduct a vote to ratify this or any other Constitution. Nevertheless, this represents a dangerous way to begin the discussion on the future of Libyan governance.

While a successful revolution in Libya may ease the repression of the general populace, basing the laws of a nation on Shari’a tilts the playing field in favor of Islamic extremists. The best case scenario looks something like Iraq or Afghanistan. Unfortunately, despite heavy American involvement in those countries, discrimination and violence against Christians continues and extremism is on the rise.

The situation in Libya highlights the need for a Special Envoy to the Middle East. The powerful forces unleashed by the Arab Spring represent the best hope for genuine freedom and democracy that we have seen in the Middle East for decades. Unfortunately, the trend appears to be moving away from that noble end.

Libya is only one example of the critical need for focus on this issue in this region at this time. The House version of this Bill HR 440 passed 402 to 20. Now we desperately need action on the Senate side.

Once again we ask you to contact your Senator and ask them to support S. 1245 Full Text Here.
Mail in the sample letter below or use it as a script when you call. Feel free to personalize the letter.

As the Congressional recess draws to a close we ask you to contact the the staffers responsible for this issue both in the office your senators and in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. We need this issue to be place on the Committee soon after the recess so that it can be sent to the Senate floor with enough time to vote on the bill.

Here is the contact information for the Committee
U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
446 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-6225

Majority Phone: (202) 224-4651
Minority Phone: (202) 224-6797

We encourage you to reach out and discuss how the situation in Libya specifically requires this bill.

In HIS Grace
Ann Buwalda
Executive Director, Jubilee Campaign
Sample Letter to Senators

Senator ____________

I am greatly concerned about the future of human rights and religious freedom in Libya. No one denies the injustice and human rights violations committed by Gadhafi’s regime. However, I fear that any government set up along Islamic principles will prove to be no better than the dictatorship. The presence of Islamic extremists in key military posts within the Libyan rebel forces and the proposed Libyan Constitution citing Shari’a as the source of all legislation represent dangerous trends for freedom and genuine democracy.

The failure of the US government to meaningfully advocate for religious minorities prompted the the “Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2011.” Senators Roy Blunt and Carl Levin introduced introduced this bill in the Senate as S. 1245. It has already passed the House 402 to 20 in a massive showing of bipartisan support.

As my Senator, I would like to ask to you to support this Bill. If the governments of the Middle East become controlled by Islamists, it will harm both the religious minorities in these countries and the ability of the United States to combat terrorism both abroad and at home. I ask that you do everything in your power to support freedom and genuine democracy including religious freedom.

Your Name

Rule of Law in the Wake of Violence

By Gregory Treat – Jubilee Campaign Staffer, Government Relations Coordinator, Special Projects, Manager of Jubilee Facebook Page and This Blog

During the first week of August, the death of Londoner Mark Duggan and the resulting public backlash spiraled into a riot. The initial failure of the British police to contain the violence compounded the problem and public unrest spread both in London and several other British cities. The police substantially increased their numbers and the mob was gradually contained. After the violence subsided, the media frenzy began in earnest. Politicians and pundits have barely begun the struggle over root causes and proper blame.

From the perspective of a human rights advocate, I am more interested in how England’s legal system responded to widespread violence. Like the incidents of violence in many countries where Jubilee Campaign works, the London riots began as a response to a specific perceived injustice. I do not use the word perceived to deny the serious allegations of police brutality in shooting of Mark Duggan. However, whether the injustice involves a police shooting in London or potentially fraudulent election results in Nigeria, it is perception not reality that sparks the violence.

Mass violence feeds on itself, especially if the initial government response fails to restore order. Addressing the House of Lords on August 9, our friend Lord David Alton noted that while the 1981 Liverpool riots began in the black community, community leaders worked to restrain their young people. However after days without rule of law the white majority began rioting and looting for pleasure or financial gain.

Similarly the recent London riots began among the poor and disadvantaged then spread to what can only be considered members of the dominant class. Olympic ambassadors, ballerinas, and straight-A collegians, do not fit the profile of an oppressed underclass who hate and fear the police. Instead, these people joined the mob for their own personal reasons.

Many of the British officials involved in the crisis made poor or hasty decisions. Some of the public statements, particular those of Theresa May, were extremely ill considered. Nevertheless, the overall response of the British nation, in particular the ongoing work of the police force and the courts, showcases a genuine commitment to rule of law.

The British police took a firm stance for rule of law promising the rioters, many of whom were filmed committing violent crimes, “we are coming for you…” and promising to investigate allegations of police brutality. As of August 12, the number of arrested rioters rose to 1,700 across the country, and courts stayed open around the clock to process the charges. In one incident a car drove into a crowd of locals who were protecting their homes and shops and killed three members of the Muslim minority. The police responded by treating the case as a murder investigation, arresting suspects and collecting evidence for a murder trial.

I see a different response in Egypt, Indonesia, and Nigeria. In Egypt in a number of incidents since Christmas, mobs attacked the Coptic Christian community and perpetrators went unpunished. Instead of making arrests, police held reconciliation meetings, which prevented prosecutions from taking place. Egyptian Police failed to prosecute violent criminals even when the rioters were caught on film and the videos posted on Youtube.

In Indonesia Muslim mobs killed three Ahmidiyya, a minority sect of Islam. Police arrested less than fifty of 1,500 rioters. Despite film of the attackers committing murder, the police refused to charge them with felony level crimes. Most of those arrested were sentenced to time served and released after the trial. Meanwhile one of the victims of the attack received a sentence of six months on trumped up charges.

In Nigeria’s 2009-2010 massacres and violence in northern states including the Plateau State, the federal government arrested some of those who committed violent crimes but refused to turn the suspects over to state officials who could charge them with serious crimes. Suspects were freed after mock trials far away from the communities harmed by violence or simply released without the attempt to determine guilt. The closest thing to justice accomplished by the Nigerian police involved the extra-judicial killing of Mohammed Yusuf the leader of the Boko Haram terrorist group. Yet murder, even of a terrorist, only served to further weaken the rule of law in Nigeria.

As a human rights advocate, I do not believe that any people or nation is superior to another. No group possesses greater tendencies to violence than another. Instead, I believe that presence or absence of a commitment to rule of law creates an expectation of justice or injustice on the part of the people living under a government. That expectation of justice keeps a people from or propels a people toward violence. The level of commitment to rule of law in Britain’s government makes the riots temporary aberrations from which Britain can recover. Perhaps those nations haunted by the constant threat of widespread sectarian violence should take note.