Monday, December 12, 2005

Going Home… to Die

850 North Korean refugees were being held after capture by Chinese security forces in five separate Chinese detention centers in the Yenbian region. Well-informed sources reported that the refugees were being repatriated ... to North Korea at a rate of roughly 100 per week

Why does the prospect of repatriation incite terror within North Korean refugees, to such a degree that many testify to carrying a small cylinder of poison as a contingency for suicide in the event of capture by Chinese security patrols or North Korean secret police operating in China?

For those refugees who convert to the Christian faith during their fugitive life in China, forced repatriation to their own home country constitutes a particularly grim fate. Such was the case of a family of four refugees whose faith flourished for over a year in the care of an undercover missionary in China. In May of 2002 the family was discovered and detained by Chinese police; shortly thereafter they were sent back to the North Korean border town of Namyang. The repatriated family members’ attempt to keep some portions of their religious reading hidden in their clothing was discovered by investigators from the North Korean State Security Agency.

Countless refugees have testified that the very first question asked repatriated refugees by interrogators is, “Have you had any contact with Christians in China?” or “Do you believe in Jesus?”

Although many newly converted refugees choose discretion as the better part of valor, this family was firm and forthright in their profession of faith. Following their bold declaration to authorities, a number of eyewitnesses testified that the four were led to so-called “Hepatitis Street,” a small courtyard adjacent to the liver ward of a hospital in Namyang City.

As a five-soldier firing squad was hurriedly assembled, the residents of the neighborhood were summoned to observe the execution. Gunshots rang out and all four fell with mortal wounds to the head. The message to the stunned cluster of neighbors was unmistakably clear: anyone who attempts to exercise a religious belief other than the worship of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, would meet the same fate.

[From a testimony by Tim Peters before The House Committee on International Relations]

Full testimony: The House Committee on International Relations, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific

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