Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Will this get their attention?

A member of the National Assembly who has been staging a hunger strike in front of the Chinese embassy says she will do so until death unless China ends its policy of repatriating North Korean refugees back to the DPRK:
Park Sun-Young, from the conservative opposition Liberty Forward party, said she wants "fundamental change" in China's policy of sending back the North Koreans rather than treating them as refugees.

"Either they change the policy or I die, as I have no intention of stopping (the fast)," Park told AFP in a weak voice.

Activists and Seoul lawmakers say about 30 North Koreans who recently fled to China will soon be sent back. They face harsh punishment or even death in their homeland, according to protesters.

Park appeared fatigued but still took part in a rally -- the latest in a series -- outside the embassy Monday.

The 55-year-old legislator, clad in thick sweaters against the sub-zero night temperatures, is living in a tent outside a church in front of the embassy. ...

A Seoul parliamentary committee last Friday criticised China's policy of repatriating the refugees as economic migrants and urged it to follow international rules.

The resolution followed media reports that nine North Koreans have already been sent back despite pleas from Seoul.

"This isn't a problem just between China and Korea. It is a worldwide issue, a matter of human rights that citizens all over the world must see and mend together," Park said.
Normally, I would think such an act is futile: Hunger strikes might work within a country to get the government to change its action or risk negative local and global press (and whatever consequences that brings), but it's harder to make it work against another country.

However, this being in the global news day after day might eventually cause it to seep through the Great Firewall of China, and more and more Chinese will start wondering what this is all about. One thing I've noticed from my discussions with students from Mainland China here in Hawaii is how utterly ignorant they are of China's policies vis-à-vis North Korean refugees. So in this case, the hunger strike might prove a very useful educational tool.

And now I should call one of my Beijing journalist friends and point her toward this story.

... Sphere: Related Content

4 comments:

  1. "One thing I've noticed from my discussions with students from Mainland China here in Hawaii is how utterly ignorant they are of China's policies vis-à-vis North Korean refugees."

    Anecdotal support for this: back in 2008 I was teaching in China and some students asked me about the protests following the Beijing Olympic torch on its round-the-world journey. They expected protests in Western countries, but they were genuinely surprised by the ones in South Korea. I told them (based on the international news coverage) that the South Korean protests were motivated at least in part by China's repatriations of NK refugees, at which point they not only understood the protesters' motivations but openly sympathized with them. I can't imagine more than a small minority of Chinese would agree with their government's refugee policy if they were actually aware of it, and among younger Chinese -- who don't remember the days when South Korea was an unrecognized state, and who feel far more affinity for Hanguo than Chaoxian -- the number would be smaller yet.

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    1. Bob Violence, thanks for the anecdote. It is encouraging that young Chinese might feel differently when presented with the information that the Chinese government is hoping their young minds won't ever process.

      Nevertheless, the constant counter to the effort to enlighten them is the fact that elements of the netizenry, probably with official sanction, have turned South Korea into the bogeyman. I've had Chinese students in the international dorm ask me, in all earnestness, why South Korea is trying to steal all of China's culture (they name things one by one, including Oriental medicine, Chinese characters, Confucius, etc.).

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  2. I can't imagine more than a small minority of Chinese would agree with their government's refugee policy if they were actually aware of it, and among younger Chinese -- who don't remember the days when South Korea was an unrecognized state, and who feel far more affinity for Hanguo than Chaoxian -- the number would be smaller yet.

    Korea was never an "unrecognized state" of China. The Joseon Dynasty did pay tribute to the Chinese, but being a tributary is not the same thing as being a colony. It was more of a political allegiance than a rule by the Chinese.

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    1. itissaid, I think Bob Violence is referring to the days from 1948 to the 1990s (whenever it was that Beijing established diplomatic relations with Seoul) when China recognized the DPRK government in Pyongyang as the legitimate ruler of all of Korea. At that time, to the PRC, the ROK was officially a usurper.

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