An asylum seeker is wrestled to the ground at a Japanese Consulate in China, in "Seoul Train."With the Olympics fast approaching China is trying to deal with what could be a major international embarrassment, how it handles the North Korean refugee crisis.

By some estimates hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees live in China. They live a substandard human existence which shows just how bad life is in North Korea that they would prefer life in China. Most refugees are in hiding, some become sex slaves or forced wives, some abandon their children to orphanages so the children can get an education, many are working for a fraction of what their Chinese counterparts would be making.

China’s policy in the past has been to repatriate all North Korean refugees because they refuse to recognize North Korean refugees as political refugees but rather as “economic refugees.” China refuses to let the UN set up refugee camps and arrests people who help these refugees. China knows vividly what happens to refugees that are repatriated to North Korea, they are tortured and sometimes executed. They’ve seen the North Korean soldiers evilly thread steel wire through the hands and nose of the refugees and drag them away. It is a violation of all international law and completely inhumane.

Fortunately for China most of the world does not care. There is rarely any news about this and in the last year there seems to have been even less news. Every once in awhile something happens that will draw international attention such as the heart wrenching photos of a young daughter being captured along with her mother and aunt at the threshold of the Japanese embassy by Chinese soldiers. Those refugees were released to South Korea.

fence along the North Korean border near Dandong, China

Now it seems like China has adopted a new policy. Basically if you’re a refugee in Beijing and you make it to an embassy then China will expedite your exit to another country. However if you’re caught outside of an embassy China will send you back to North Korea. China’s goal is obvious, get rid of all North Korean refugees in China one way or the other to avoid embarrassment. China is also doing everything it can to stop North Korean refugees from entering China by erecting a wall at the border and substantially increasing the military border patrol.

Greater China
China’s ‘Olympic approach’ to Refugees
By Sunny Lee
Published: January 26, 2008

BEIJING – During Christmas last year, foreign news outlets in Beijing were busy checking on a possibly important scoop: whether China had reversed its long-standing policy of repatriating North Korean refugees. If true, it would have been a dramatic milestone in one of the hottest spots in the global human-rights advocacy movement.

The excited fuss was sparked when China allowed 43 North Korean refugees, sheltered in the South Korean Consulate and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees compound in Beijing, to leave the country for South Korea and the United States – all of them.

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