CHICAGO (CBS) — Members of Chicago’s Korean community protested Thursday morning, after the Chinese government decided to repatriate about 30 defectors from North Korea.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the protesters want the Chinese government to change its mind about repatriating the refugees, who were recently arrested for crossing the border into China.
The group demonstrated outside the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China, at 100 W. Erie St. Several dozen Koreans and Korean Americans from the Chicago area were in attendance.
The protesters warn that if the defectors are sent back to North Korea, they could face severe punishment – even execution.
But Chinese authorities say it is their policy to send back those who escaped. South Koreans and human rights groups have already staged several protests, and the South Korean government said it would raise the issue with the United Nations next week.
The Chicago protesters were asking for the safety and humane treatment of North Korean refugees living in China. Around 10 a.m., a protest organizer dropped off a letter to the Chicago consulate general of China, demanding intervention.
“It’s a way for us to show them that it’s a really important cause – not just in Korea, but for the world to see,” said University of Chicago student Ji Noh. “Refugees are everywhere in the world, and if we can’t stop this one, then how can we stop the other ones that are going on in the world?”
“The people that defected from the North Korean – those people, actually, they escaped a country that means something; they couldn’t survive up there, then we have to take them in terms of human rights,” said Henry Sim of Bolingbrook. “And somehow, I heard the Chinese government, they sent them back to North Korea. That’s not right.”
Andrew Hong, president of Emancipate North Korea, said protests are going on in many corners of the world.
“There are a lot of protesters going on in South Korea, and there was a small protest in L.A., and we’re trying to do the same thing,” he said. “And we’re trying to instigate other people and other states to do the same thing, and the entire world to do the same thing, because the U.N. is going to talk about it next week, and we want the voice of the voiceless to be heard.”
The Chinese consul general is in a busy area in River North, and thus, several Chicago Police officers were on the scene trying to keep the protesters on the sidewalk.
The protesters said they have sent letters to the White House and to Chinese President Hu Jintao. They planned to continue the protest until 12:30 p.m.