Christians Call on Chinese Government to Protect North Korean Refugees

A protest and prayer vigil was held at the weekend by the North Korea Freedom Coalition in partnership with Open Doors to highlight China's violent repatriation of North Korean refugees.

Saturday's peaceful protest took place opposite the Chinese Embassy in London and coincided with similar protests taking place in 19 cities, in 13 countries around the world.

Fifty protestors gathered opposite the embassy from 11:30am demonstrating the strength of concern felt by Christians for suffering North Korean refugees in China who continue to be hunted down by Chinese authorities and forcibly returned to North Korea. Once repatriated, they face torture, imprisonment and even execution for the 'crime' of leaving their country.

At midday, a letter of concern was delivered to the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Mr Zha Peixin, expressing concern on behalf of the Christian Church in the United Kingdom and Ireland. A bouquet of flowers was also deposited outside the embassy, as a token of respect and prayer. Embassy staff would not open the door to receive Open Doors' letter or flowers.

Eddie Lyle, CEO of Open Doors UK & Ireland, commented: "We were horrified that the Chinese Embassy would not even extend the courtesy of opening the door to us. The UK is a democratic society where the voices of all are given a hearing, and the refusal of the Chinese representatives to acknowledge our delegation is, to us, indicative of their lack of willingness to listen to the increasing protest of fury from around world.

"They cannot be unaware of the inhumane treatment which awaits the North Korean refugees whom they forcibly repatriate and who are desperately seeking refuge within their borders. China not only hunts down refugees, but it also hunts down and jails its own citizens for helping these refugees."

Contrary to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, China is deporting refugees back to North Korea where they will be received as 'traitors'. Moreover, although the 1951 Convention prescribes free access to the refugees, China does not allow the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) free access to North Korean refugees.

Earlier that morning Eddie Lyle made a separate visit to the North Korean Embassy in Ealing. Mr Lyle was again refused entry to the embassy and an attending policeman informed him that embassy staff would not acknowledge him. A letter of concern about North Korea's human rights record was posted through the embassy letterbox but the bouquet of flowers - to be respectfully presented to North Korea's ambassador to the UK, Mr Ri Yong Ho, as a token that many are praying for peace and justice in North Korea - could not be delivered.

One Open Doors' supporter who joined the protest outside the Chinese embassy commented, "I pray our peaceful protest, joining with others across the world, will help to persuade the Chinese authorities to change their stance regarding North Korea's refugees in China."

Open Doors is appealing for more Christians to join her in praying for positive change in the treatment of North Korean refugees who flee to China and for adherence by North Korea and China to international conventions and human rights obligations.