U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) attended a candlelight vigil earlier today in Seoul, South Korea, in front of the Chinese embassy, to raise awareness about the plight of North Korean refugees. Many North Koreans who flee to China are sent by Beijing back into the clutches of the Pyongyang regime.
Congressman McCotter spoke about the insatiable thirst for freedom worldwide. He referenced President Abraham Lincoln that a house divided against itself cannot stand and affirmed that, one day, the oppressed people of China and North Korea will be truly free.
Ros-Lehtinen and McCotter attended the vigil with South Korea Assemblywoman Park Sun Young.
Statement by Ros-Lehtinen at the vigil:
"National Assemblywoman Park, Korean War Abductees Family Union President Lee, Ladies and Gentlemen, we gather here tonight, not out of a sense of joy, but out of a foreboding sense of deep concern.
"Our concern is for those brave men, women and children who dare to make the crossing from the gulag state of North Korea into China. The only thing they seek is safe passage through China to South Korea and other democracies.
"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. I too was a refugee.
"There is one person, more than any other, who has brought these refugees' plight to the world's attention. That is National Assemblywoman Park. Like a modern day Joan of Arc, Madam Park, through her fasting and prayers, touched the conscience of a nation to save these people. Through the use of the internet in the most-wired country on earth, the "Save My Friend' campaign brought out large numbers of South Korean citizens for a number of rallies in the place where we stand tonight.
"Madam Park shockingly reported last winter about a young North Korean mother with an infant, detained in a Chinese prison awaiting deportation to persecution and possible death in North Korea. This mother, like another young mother who fled with her babe into Egypt two thousand years ago, had every reason to fear for her own life and that of her newborn child.
"What kind of regime hunts down babies? And what kind of regime provides assistance in such a hunt?
"I was proud to sponsor, in the current Congress, the re-authorization of the North Korea Human Rights Act. This calls on China to meet its international obligations and immediately cease and desist from the deportation of North Korean refugees. The re-authorization is named for two great American statesmen. These are Ambassador James Lilley, who served here at the American Embassy in Seoul, and Congressman Stephen Solarz. V Both of them devoted the final years of their lives to the issue of North Korean human rights.
"The Chinese regime has proven to be consistently tone deaf to the appeals of these two great men and other voices, including our own, calling on Beijing to meet its humanitarian obligations to North Korean refugees. And so we stand here today to appeal directly to the Chinese people to hear the cries of the oppressed in their midst.
"And to the cold-hearted regime in Beijing we call out, as Moses did to Pharaoh over three thousand years ago: Mr. Hu, let these people go! Mr. Hu, let all North Korean refugees have safe passage to South Korea and other democratic nations!
"Tell Pyongyang to immediately release all South Korean and Japanese abductees! End the persecution of Mr. Chen Guangcheng, his family, his supporters and all other political dissidents and religious believers in China!
"We cannot achieve this in one day or perhaps not even in a decade. But an old Asian proverb states that a journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step.
"Another Asian proverb states that it is better to light a candle, as we have done tonight, than to curse the darkness. And so we lift our candles tonight as symbols that true light can even penetrate the darkest of spaces."