A rights coalition is encouraging Americans to “offset” their “made-in-China” Christmas purchases this year with donations and prayers to North Korean refugees who suffer under the Chinese government’s policy of forceful repatriation.
Acknowledging the difficulty in buying non-made-in-China products, the North Korea Freedom Coalition (NKFC), a group representing over 60 organizations – including those smuggling refugees out of North Korea – hopes conscientious shoppers this year will counterbalance their purchases that help to support a government violating human rights by giving to those being abused by the regime.
"It is nearly impossible to avoid buying products made in China, especially during the Holidays," said NKFC Chairman Suzanne Scholte, the 2008 Seoul Peace Prize laureate, "but we ask Americans to offset these purchases by donating for the rescue of North Korean refugees, most of whom are women and children.”
Scholte went on to explain that the Chinese government, “in defiance” of international law and requests from the United States and South Korea, has worked with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il to “hunt down refugees” and force them back to North Korea.
The U.N. Special Rapporteur on North Korea has declared North Koreans who flee to China as “refugees” deserving protection, but China refuses to recognize this status and instead claims they are “economic migrants.”
Chinese officials force North Koreans to return to their repressive country knowing that it is a state crime in North Korea for its citizens to leave the country and punishment includes imprisonment, torture, and death.
In the past decade, it’s estimated that at least 500,000 North Koreans have crossed the border over to China to escape hunger and oppression under dictator Kim Jong-il.
North Korea has been struck by a series of natural disasters since the mid-1990s, which coupled with government mismanagement, has resulted in the devastation of its food production and economy. Up to 2 million people had died in North Korea in the mid-1990s alone due to a famine.
Then last year, a historic flood - the worst in 40 years - left more than 600 people dead or missing and some 100 people homeless. After the 2007 flood, more than 11 percent of the nation’s crops were destroyed as well as much of the country’s infrastructure and industrial facilities.
The flood’s effects rolled over into 2008 and many of the country’s citizens depended on foreign food aid to survive.
Last week, U.N. food agencies reported that North Korea faces a shortfall of more than 800,000 tons of grain for this year through October 2009 – the next harvest. As a result, about 8.7 million of the country’s 23 million, or 38 percent, will need food assistance next year.
In addition to problems with repatriated refugees and food production, North Korea is also widely regarded as the world’s worst religious freedom violator.
Citizens of the communist state are forced to adhere to a personality cult that revolves around worshipping current dictator Kim Jong-il and his deceased father, Kim Il-sung. Being found a Christian is among the worst crimes someone can be accused of, and results in imprisonment, torture and at times public execution.
Open Doors USA, a persecution watchdog group, ranked North Korea as the world's worst Christian persecutor in its 2008 watchlist.