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DPR Korea: UN Expert Calls For End To Persecution

UN Expert Calls For End To 'Persecution' Of Refugees Escaping Hunger In DPR Of Korea

A United Nations human rights expert has called for an end to the maltreatment of people who try to escape hunger and starvation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) by crossing the border into China only to be hunted down by Chinese authorities and returned home, where they often face harsh punishment and sometimes even death sentences.

A statement released yesterday by the UN Commission on Human Rights' Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, said the "systematic and widespread persecution" of the Korean refugees from hunger on Chinese soil constituted "a grave and repeated" violation of the human right to food, which is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international treaties.

The Special Rapporteur appealed urgently to the Chinese authorities "to put an immediate end to these persecutions" and to refrain from handing over to authorities in the DPRK any refugees from hunger arrested in China. He also demanded that the governments in Pyongyang and Beijing "scrupulously respect the human right to food of all people in their respective territories."

For more than five years, millions of people, especially children and older people, in the DPRK have been suffering from hunger, severe malnutrition and violations of their right to food, Mr. Ziegler said, noting that the UN World Food Programme (<"http://www.wfp.org/index.htm">WFP) is currently appealing for funds to provide emergency food assistance to 6.5 million people.

He went on to describe a situation where the Chinese authorities, "helped by secret agents from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," have hunted down the many Korean families that have tried to escape hunger by crossing into China via the Tumen or Yalu Rivers, which run 1,300 kilometres along the two countries' border.

In the border regions of Dandong and Sinuiju, several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United States and Europe have documented disturbing details about this manhunt. Chinese authorities have reportedly offered a $200 reward to anyone who will provide information to the police regarding the hiding places of these refugee families, he said.

The men, women and children arrested are sent back by the Chinese authorities to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, where, according to information from international organizations, NGOs and the International Committee of the Red Cross, heavy punishments are regularly applied to those who have been repatriated by force.

The most common punishment is to sentence the whole family to long years in camps, and the imposition of death sentences has also been alleged, Mr. Ziegler said.

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