Communist Party in China

China Facts: Communications - with North Korean Refugees

How does China's strict policies on communication affect Crossing Borders' efforts working with North Korean refugees? The Communist Party in China wants to retain power and this means that they stifle voices of dissent. This is why China restricts Internet usage, monitors phone communication and restricts freedom of the press.

China employs a total of 250,000 to 300,000 people to monitor their websites. (Source: “How Censorship in China Allows Government Criticism but Silences Collective Expression,” 2013. King, Pan, Roberts.)

That’s about the population of Anchorage, Alaska.

China knows that messages of dissent can quickly spread through the Web so they do everything they can to squash them.

Dissedent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei reacts during a group interview at his studio in Beijing
Dissedent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei reacts during a group interview at his studio in Beijing

In 2011, one of the most outspoken critics of the Chinese government, artist and activist Ai Weiwei, was arrested and detained for 81 days on what was believed to be trumped-up tax evasion charges following his harsh critique of the government’s handling of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Since his release from jail, he has been barred from leaving Beijing.

Crossing Borders is always vigilant about using the Chinese network to communicate. We assume China can listen in on our phone conversations and can look into most of our communications made over the Internet. Over the past 12 years, we have developed ways to secure our Internet connection and speak in code, among other things, to keep our communications secure. These measures and many more keep our North Korean refugees and workers on the ground safe so that our work can continue.

Stay tuned for more facts about China.

China Facts: One Party - Effects on North Korean Refugees

What are the political conditions of the nation in which our North Korean refugees seek safety and shelter? China is an economic behemoth that is often difficult to understand. You might have seen reports that they're investing heavily in Africa, flexing their muscle in Hong Kong or quietly keeping North Korea afloat. But why? What is China's game plan? Why do they operate under the veil of such mystery?

Crossing Borders operates under the umbrella of the Chinese government so it is essential to understand China in order to understand the plight of the work that we do. Hopefully, our "China Facts" series will give you a better picture of how China affects North Korea and the North Korean refugees we serve.

Our first installment is about China's one party system.

China is a one-party system. The Communist Party in China rules the country. There are no conservative or liberal parties. China's government is centralized and ruled by those who are members of the Communist Party. Though it’s hard to generalize an institution so large, it is safe to say that one of the party’s main objectives is to hold onto power.

Chinese citizens have the right to vote for lower-level officials but these candidates often have to be endorsed by the party to make it to ballot. High-level officials are elected from within.

This system has given China a decided economic edge because the decision-making process is agile and the country is able to quickly respond to changes in the global economy. Where this system lags is in the area of human rights.

In their 2014 World Report, Human Rights Watch says about the country:

"Rapid socio-economic change in China has been accompanied by relaxation of some restrictions on basic rights, but the government remains an authoritarian one-party state. It places arbitrary curbs on expression, association, assembly, and religion; prohibits independent labor unions and human rights organizations; and maintains Party control over all judicial institutions."

What this means for the estimated 200,000 North Korean refugees in China is that they are granted no human rights because China sees cooperating with North Korea in their best interest. There is no legal recourse if a Chinese citizen murders a North Korean refugee.

This is why Crossing Borders has and will continue to operate underground. This is why we change the names of the people we help and the people who help them. This is why we blur the faces of the individuals we help.

Stay tuned for more facts about China.