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Repatriation policy links China to rights violations

Beijing shares blame with N. Korea, lawmakers say

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China is partially to blame for North Korea's human rights violations because of its policy of sending North Korean refugees back to the isolated communist dictatorship, members of a congressional panel said Thursday.

"What China is doing ... is brutal," said Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican and co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, at Thursday's hearing at the Rayburn House Office Building. "This administration has lost its voice. It's silent on these issues."

While Beijing has long been North Korea's sole source of outside diplomatic support, the repatriation policy makes China's complicity deeper, said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican.

Mr. Smith recommended that China be placed on the State Department's list of "Tier 3 Countries" on matters of human trafficking. A nation in that category "does not fully comply with the minimum standards [to fight trafficking] and is not making significant efforts to do so," which would enable the U.S. to place economic sanctions on China, which is currently on the "Tier 2" watch list.

Because, among other reasons, the Chinese government offers bounties of up to $1,400 to families who report North Korean defectors, about 90 percent are caught, Mr. Smith said.

Nongovernmental organizations want to bring North Korea to trial for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court, said Rep. Jim McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat and the commission's other co-chairman.

Graphic pictures drawn by an unnamed North Korean defector were used to demonstrate the atrocities North Korea performs against its citizens who have been deported by the Chinese government.

Among other things, the pictures showed a prisoner being forced to pick through a cow's manure to find kernels of corn, a prisoner being hung upside down and kicked in the stomach by a guard, and a pregnant woman having a wooden board placed across her body while two other prisoners jumped on either side of the board to force an abortion.

Defector Bahng Mi-sun told the panel through a translator that while North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il is to blame for the atrocities, "isn't it also the fault of [Chinese President] Hu Jintao whose government arrests North Korean defector women and forcibly repatriates them?"

Because of the treatment of North Koreans in China, I "wanted to actually find ways to stop women from having to go to China," Ms. Bahng said. "I had not even known that I had human rights before I came to South Korea."

Jo Jin-hae, another North Korean defector who testified through a translator, said she was "not sharing my testimony here at this place to solicit your pity, or for you to feel sorry for me."

Instead, she said, "my reason for being here today is to ask the people in the world and all of you here, to come together and concentrate your efforts to help with this situation, so that there will be no more children who suffered like I did."

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission is a bipartisan special House panel named for the late Rep. Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress and a longtime human rights crusader.

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