On Thursday two members of the U.S. Congress attended a candlelight vigil on behalf of North Korean refugees in China held in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul.
U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called upon China to cease repatriating North Korean refugees, who if sent back to North Korea will certainly be imprisoned, tortured, and sometimes executed.
She called upon Chinese leader Hu Jintao to “let all North Korean refugees have safe passage to South Korea and other democratic nations.”
Ros-Lehtinen and five other members of Congress arrived May 22 in Seoul for a four-day visit that included a vigil reported AFP.
Ros-Lehtinen reminded the crowd, “I too was once a refugee.”
“Having fled communist totalitarianism in Cuba, I have walked their lonely road and have experienced both the fears and the hopes that combine to motivate their arduous journey toward freedom,” she said.
With Rep. Ros-Lehtinen at the vigil was South Korea Assemblywoman Park Sun Young, whom the congresswoman praised for calling attention to the plight of the North Korean refugees in China.
“Madam Park, through her fasting and prayers, touched the conscience of a nation to save these people,” said Ros-Lehtinen. She credited Parks Internet campaign, “Save My Friend,” for spurring large crowds of South Korean citizens to come out for multiple rallies in the same place they stood then.
Park publicized the plight of a North Korean mother incarcerated in China with an infant. The father presumably is Chinese, which means the baby will likely be killed if the mother is forcibly returned to North Korea.
“What kind of regime hunts down babies? And what kind of regime provides assistance in such a hunt?, said Ros-Lehtinen referring respectively to North Korea and the Chinese regime.
The congresswoman was joined by her colleague Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) who stood next to her as she read her speech, holding a copy of H.R. 4240, which reauthorized the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 (re-authorized and strengthened in 2008).
In remarks, Congressman McCotter cited Abraham Lincoln’s words that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Rep. McCotter said that one the oppressed people of China and North Korea will be truly free.
Authored by Chairman Ros-Lehtinen., H.R. 4240 passed the House on May 15, 2012 with 28 co-sponsors and was presented to the Senate May 16, 2012. The bill will extend the North Korean Human Rights Act till 2017.
H.R. 4240 is named after the late James Lilley, who served as ambassador to China and South Korea, and Congressman Stephen Solarz, former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific. Both took an active interest at the end of their lives in human rights in North Korea.
The bill holds China responsible for violating international law with regard to fugitives.
“Notwithstanding high-level advocacy by the United States, the Republic of Korea, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, China has continued to forcibly repatriate North Koreans, including dozens of presumed refugees who were the subject of international humanitarian appeals during February and March of 2012,” says the Act.
The Congressional-Executive China Commission (CECC) Oct. 2011 annual report said, “Chinese law enforcement agencies have deployed hundreds of officials to locate and forcibly repatriate North Korean refugees.”
The Epoch Times reported in March that the Chinese regime works with North Korean police to engage in “manhunts,” throughout China, including remote areas. In addition, Chinese authorities offer bounties to citizens who turn in North Koreans, and “fine, detain, or imprison” those who render humanitarian assistance.
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