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Christian Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Aiding North Korean Refugees

by Staff
September 3, 2009
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INNER MONGOLIA, ( -- Christians Li Mingshun and Zhang Yonghu were indicted by the Erlianhaote City People's Procuratorate on July 31, 2009, for aiding North Korean refugees fleeing to South Korea through China. Li and Zhang were among several Christians helping to provide food, shelter, and transportation for the 61 refugees crossing Northern Chinese provinces into Mongolia, where neutral state laws permit residents to seek asylum in South Korea.

Alerted as the refugees crossed into Mongolia, the Border Brigade of Erlianhaote city traveled to Qindao, Heilongjiang province, and arrested Li Mingshun on April 29, 2009. The trial was held August 17, 2009 in the Erlianhaote City People's Court. Human rights lawyers defending Li and Zhang hoped to raise awareness concerning the Chinese government's treatment of North Korean refugees through this case.

On August 30, 2009, Ms. Li was found guilty for her humanitarian activities by the Erlianhaote Procuratorate, (officially charged with "human smuggling across the border). She was sentenced to ten years in prison. Ms. Li's family in Qindao City received the verdict the morning of August 30. Mr. Zhang received a seven-year sentence for organizing transportation for the refugees to Inner Mongolia. Li's family reports they will be submitting an appeal for Li and Zhang's lawful release. (Visit to view Official Sentencing Document for Li and Zhang with Press Release).

The verdict underscores years of continued persecution for North Koreans in China, who have been denied refugee-status by the Chinese government and repatriated in violation of the UNHCR Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, which China signed in 1982.

The costs of repatriation are dire. Refugees face charges of treason upon their return to the home country, punishable by death, detention and/or lifelong imprisonment in labor camps. Detained Korean women and children in China are frequently sold into the sex-slave trade, disappearing from the formal record into the human trafficking void. Many Chinese and Korean Christians, like Li and Zhang, work with underground networks to aid these refugees as they seek freedom from persecution, only to be arrested and charged as criminals.

President of ChinaAid Xiqiu "Bob" Fu responded to Li and Zhang's sentences. "I am shocked at how the Chinese government treats its own humanitarian workers. They are innocent! We must urge the international community to voice their concerns for the persecuted North Korean refugees and the humanitarian workers who serve them in their time of need." He further calls for the Chinese government to honor the Li family's appeal, find them innocent under the Chinese law, and release Li Mingshun and Zhang Yonghu.

ChinaAid requests the international community to contact the Erlianhaote City People's Procuratorate and Government to urge them to release Li Mingshun and Zhang Yonghu and to respect and uphold human rights for North Korean refugees.

Erlianhaote City People's Procuratorate, Tel: +86 479- 7532977
Erlianhaote City People's Government website:
Tel: 0479-7521255
Fax: 0479-7521255
Complaint Tel :0479-7521221, fax :0479-7521255
Erlianhaote Municipal People's Government
Tel :0479-7523950

To further voice your support for human rights and North Korean refugee relief efforts in China, contact the UNHCR office in Beijing:

Address: 1-2-1, Tayuan Diplomatic Office Building, 14
Liangmahe Nan Lu, Beijing 100600
Tel: (86-10) 6532 6806
Fax: (86-10) 6532 1647

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