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Public Statements

Calling on China to Respect the Human Rights of Refugees from North Korea

Location: Washington, DC



Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony that was held for His Holiness the Dalai Lama earlier this month served to remind us all once again that the Chinese leadership has a long way to go before it becomes a responsible stakeholder in the international community.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the callous disregard of Beijing of its international treaty obligations with regard to refugees, both North Korean and Tibetan.

The international press has reported incidents of Chinese border guards shooting and killing both North Korean and Tibetan refugees as they sought to flee China. These reprehensible acts must stop at once.

Earlier this month, Beijing demonstrated once again its continued contempt for the international refugee conventions. Chinese police entered the South Korean international school in Beijing to drag North Korean refugees from their hiding places. North Korean refugees had sought sanctuary there.

In the process, the Chinese police roughed up South Korean diplomats who were sent by their government to assist these refugees.

I call on Beijing to act in accordance with the international refugee conventions that it has signed and to end the disrespect that it has shown toward the diplomats of a major ally of the United States.

This resolution, put forward by my good friend, ED ROYCE of California, is particularly timely and essential with the approach of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Olympic hosts should not include oppressors of refugees.

The forced repatriation of North Korean refugees is both irresponsible and immoral. If ever there was a refugee population who faced the immediate threat of persecution upon return to their homeland, it is the tens of thousands of North Korean refugees now hiding in China.

The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, must also do a much better job in holding Beijing accountable for its reckless disregard of its obligations. If Beijing does not begin to address this urgent issue in a

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responsible way, then there should be dire consequences.

Television viewers around the world next summer could possibly see on their screens the scene of a North Korean woman with her baby seeking safe haven in an athletes' dormitory at the Olympic village as Chinese police ruthlessly pursue her.

This resolution, therefore, Mr. Speaker, is of vital importance for the reaffirmation of our commitment to the protection of refugees and, most importantly, for the North Korean refugees themselves.

I rise in strong support of Mr. Royce's resolution, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.


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