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.
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.
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.
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.