US lawmakers blast China for helping NK violate rights
By Kang Hyun-kyung
U.S. Republican lawmakers lashed out at China Thursday for teaming up with North Korea to abuse the human rights of North Korean refugees and for detaining four South Korean activists for more than 50 days while denying them access to a lawyer.
Reps. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Thaddeu McCotter urged China to release the four South Koreans and stop repatriating North Koreans.
The U.S. lawmakers dubbed China “cold-hearted” for its repatriation of North Korean refugees to their homeland where human rights abuses are rampant, and described North Korea as “a barbaric regime.”
“We demand China immediately release Kim Young-hwan and the three other South Korean citizens in jail in China,” Ros-Lehtinen said during a joint press conference in front of the Ok In Presbyterian Church across from the Chinese Embassy in Seoul.
Four South Korean human rights activists, including Kim, are being held in China on suspicions of “espionage and being a threat to national security.” The Chinese State Security Ministry refused to elaborate and provide details on how the activists broke local laws.
The four activists continue to be denied access to a lawyer.
During an interview with a South Korean consul, Kim, a North Korean human rights activist, was quoted as saying that he would not speak about whether or not Chinese authorities abused his human rights because Chinese police were present.
The three other South Koreans were denied access to the consul. China claimed the three signed a letter saying they didn’t want consular access. Human rights activists here question if the signatures were voluntary. Ros-Lehtinen and McCotter joined the press conference with Rep. Park Sun-young of the minor Liberty Forward Party after winding up their trip to the heavily fortified demilitarized zone (DMZ) dividing the peninsula.
Since arriving in Seoul on Tuesday, the U.S. lawmakers met President Lee Myung-bak, Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik and senior foreign ministry officials to exchange ideas on security-related issues before the Thursday rally.
Ros-Lehtinen said a young North Korean woman with an infant awaiting deportation to certain persecution and possible death in North Korea 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?” she said.