China Takes 2 Steps Back Over N.Korean Rights Abuses

Pak Soo-chan Pak Soo-chan

The UN Human Rights Council met in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday to discuss the latest human rights report on North Korea, which accused the North of grave abuses that were tantamount to crimes against humanity.

China's representative at the meeting accused the report of "failing to meet the standards of fairness and objectivity" and claimed that the real situation on the Korean Peninsula is different. The HRC's Commission of Inquiry recommended that Beijing stop sending North Korean defectors back to the North, but the Chinese representative at the meeting rejected this as "close to nonsense" based on "unconfirmed claims."

The commission was established in March of last year following a decision by the HRC. Headed by retired Australian Supreme Court justice Michael Kirby, it interviewed 80 North Korean defectors and North Korea experts over the last year to produce a 372-page report.

The Chinese representative claimed the report lacked objectivity since it did not have the cooperation of related countries. In other words, it was based on interviews with North Koreans who had fled their country. But North Korea has repeatedly refused UN invitations to attend its human rights sessions, and China also refused to let the commission conduct investigations inside its borders.

In a letter to the commission late last year, the Chinese ambassador to Geneva claimed that security officials only arrested North Korean "illegal aliens," but denied accusations that they were tortured after being repatriated.

However, Yoon Yeo-sang at the government-funded Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, who has spoken with defectors from the North since the 2000s, said, "Most of the 3,262 cases of torture involving North Korean defectors took place in the process of forced repatriation."

The UNHRC plans to present a resolution next week similar to those passed unanimously both in 2012 and last year. But China, which is a member this year as part of a three-year term, seems minded to veto it. Such behavior is unbefitting of a would-be world power. Such a status requires more attention to human rights abuses around the world.

China must think hard about how it will look when the full extent of North Korea's human rights abuses is finally demonstrated to the world.

By Pak Soo-chan from the Chosun Ilbo's News Desk

englishnews@chosun.com / Mar. 19, 2014 13:18 KST