Friday, June 08, 2007

North Korean crack down on Christian defectors

From an excerpt of an editorial by Nicholas Kristoff, in The New York Times:
In an archipelago of safe houses here, part of a 21st-century Underground Railroad, I met groups of people who live every moment with sickening fear.

These are North Koreans who have escaped “to the free world” — China — and are now at constant risk of being captured by Chinese police.

The North Korean authorities used to detain citizens returned by China for a few weeks or months and then release them after a bit of “re-education.” Now those returned by China are often sentenced to prison for several years, and repeat offenders or Christians can be sent with their entire families to labor camps for life.

Some North Koreans told me that their government now holds regular sentencing rallies, at which the punishments are publicly announced — or in extreme cases, such as those who became Christian evangelists while in China, the accused are executed in front of the crowd by firing squad.

One Christian I spoke to had been beaten so badly after his return by China that he tried to commit suicide by swallowing a handful of pins. The prison, not wanting to have to dispose of a corpse, freed him — and he eventually made his way back to China.

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