Teresa Ost, a Mexican coordinator for the North Korea Freedom Coalition (NKFC), delivers a petition to the Chinese Embassy in Mexico City, Friday, calling on China to stop forcibly repatriating North Korean defectors to Pyongyang. / Yonhap
By Jun Ji-hye
Teresa Ost, 42, is a Mexican activist who has worked with South Korean and U.S. activists to improve North Korean human rights.
She serves as coordinator for the Washington-based North Korea Freedom Coalition (NKFC).
She is currently working on stopping China from forcibly repatriating North Korean defectors captured in Chinese territory to Pyongyang.
She told reporters in Mexico City, Saturday, that North Korean defectors' lives are at risk and once they are repatriated by China, they are detained in political prisoner camps or executed. She said Beijing should grant the defectors safe passage in cooperation with the United Nations and South Korea.
"There is no need for China to forcibly repatriate North Korean defectors to North Korea, as a number of countries including South Korea are ready to help them," she said. "China should be aware that many defectors are fleeing North Korea because it denies them basic human rights."
She also called on the North to respect the fundamental human rights of its people and allow freedoms sought by all human beings.
Ost began advocating for North Korean human rights in 2000 and coordinator for the NKFC in 2010.
On Friday, the NKFC held the annual Save North Korean Refugees Day in 24 cities of 13 countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, Finland, Germany and Mexico.
Ost held a placard that read "we are against compulsory repatriation of North Korean defectors" in Spanish in front of the Chinese Embassy in Mexico City.
She also delivered an appeal signed by NKFC Chair Suzanne Scholte as well as a petition signed by about 7,000 Mexican people to the embassy.
In the appeal, the NKFC said China signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol on Sept. 24, 1982.
"By signing this agreement, the People's Republic of China agreed to share international concerns and protocols for refugees," it said. "As you know the Korean family remains divided and those living under the Kim Jong-un regime in the North suffer unspeakable atrocities and crimes against humanity leading many to flee the country and become refugees."
Ost said she and the organization will do everything they can to improve the human rights situation in North Korea.
"It is important to put international pressure on China and North Korea," she said.