Activists gather outside the Chinese embassy in Seoul to protest the forced repatriation of North Korean refugees (Photo courtesy of Network to Save North Korean Refugees)
Activists on Wednesday dismissed recent reports saying that China has halted the repatriation of North Korean refugees, maintaining Beijing is still returning people to face harsh punishments or even execution.
They and several dozen North Korean refugees had gathered outside the Chinese embassy in Seoul to demand China formally announce an end to its repatriation policy and respect international law in regard to the treatment of refugees.
The gathering was also the 100th protest outside the Chinese mission organized by the Network to Save North Korean Refugees (NSNKR).
"North Korea will never change by itself, but if repatriation is stopped, amazing change, will come," the NSNKR said in a statement.
NSNKR president, Reverend Soh Kyung-suk, told an estimated 100 protestors, including lawmaker Theresa Park Sun-young, that although the Chinese government has shown some change in its stance, it has not stopped its repatriation policy
Park sparked international concern in February by revealing that China had arrested 31 refugees and was to send them back to the North.
Reverend Soh was referring to a meeting earlier this month between Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Chinese President Hu Jintao in which both countries agreed to work together to "smoothly resolve" the issue of North Korean refugees hiding in China.
He also dismissed a report last month in the Japanese Yomiuri Shinbun
newspaper which reported Chinese sources claiming Beijing had halted the repatriation of refugees in response to North Korea’s controversial rocket launch last month.
Other reports have questioned the claim with Radio Free Asia, a non-profit US station quoting UNHCR chief, Antonio Guterres as saying that the Yomiuri
report was untrue.
Beijing did allow five North Korean defectors to travel to South Korea after having been holed up at a South Korean consulate in China for several years, but there has been no sign that China has changed its policy, the protestors said.
They said they will continue to protest outside the Chinese embassy until Beijing renounces the repatriation of refugees and allows them to come to South Korea.
Foreign refugees put pressure on China