China Facts: The Fear of Refugees

To understand Crossing Borders, one must understand China. Over the past few weeks, we have been shedding light on facts about China and how they relate to North Korea and North Korean refugees. Like war, instability of any kind is a threat to China’s economic growth. During the late 90s and early 2000s, it was estimated that there were between 100,000 to 300,000 North Korean refugees in China. This is a number generated by the hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees who fled for their lives during the Great North Korean Famine.

These refugees represent a destabilizing threat to the government. North Koreans can take jobs away from the Chinese. A large number of them could sap valuable resources away from Chinese citizens and can slow economic progress.

This is why the government takes a Zero Tolerance stance on North Korean refugees.

North Korean refugees in China are:

1. Given no rights

It is illegal for a Chinese citizen to feed a North Korean refugee. A North Korean refugee could be murdered by a Chinese citizen with no legal recourse. This is why many North Korean women have been sold to Chinese men as forced brides and prostitutes.

2. Captured

China actively seeks out North Koreans and the networks that provide help to them. Over the years, China has gone on active sweeps to arrest North Koreans for illegally entering the country.

3. Repatriated

China has arrested thousands of North Koreans and sent them back to their country where they are sentenced to forced labor and even executed. North Korean refugees in China are afraid to go outside, speak and seek help because these might all lead to them getting caught, arrested and sent back to certain torture.

In recent years the two countries have worked in concert to stem the flow of refugees across their shared border. They both have erected long, barbed-wire fences. North Korea has also made significant improvements to its border security in order to keep these refugees in ranging from increased rotation of border guards to explosives planted along the Tumen River.

With the economic leverage China has over North Korea, it is not far fetched to think that China could ease its Zero Tolerance policy toward North Koreans while maintaining its economic and military ties with the country.

Crossing Borders will continue to feed, protect and minister to these refugees until China changes their stance on North Korean refugees.