An editorial by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times highlights the the plight of escaped North Koreans forced back to North Korea by what he calls a "disgraceful breach" of obligations.
China punishes its residents who have been discovered helping North Korean refugees. Those who run safe houses used to face small fines, but now the government imprisons such safe house operators and some have been thrown in jail for over a decade in instances where the refugees have been smuggled into South Korea. Kristof refers to the Chinese who help the escaping North Koreans "incredibly courageous conductors on the modern Underground Railroad."
He makes mention of one such North Korean refugee: “In one shelter is a 14-year-old North Korean girl: shy, sweet and terrified. Her parents led her across the frozen Tumen River from North Korea in the middle of winter, but then they became separated while trying to flee the police. ‘I don’t know where my parents are, or if they are even alive,’ she said.”
Kristof then challenges the Bush Administration: "President Bush should raise China's breach of its international obligations with Hu Jintao. Mr. Bush might think of that 14-year old girl, who spends her days minding two nine-year-old boys whose mothers were caught and sent back to North Korea. ... They fear with every footstep outside their door that China will arrest them and send them back to their national torture chamber."