China rejects visa request by S. Korean lawmaker fighting for defectors

February 28, 2012 11:30 am 

SEOUL, Feb. 28 — A South Korean lawmaker campaigning for the rights of North Korean defectors in China on Tuesday said her request for a Chinese visa has been rejected twice, apparently due to Beijing's retaliation for her activism.

Rep. Park Sun-young of the conservative minor Liberty Forward Party said she failed to obtain a visa from the Chinese government ahead of her visit scheduled for Feb. 13 and Feb. 27.

The lawmaker said she had planned to visit Beijing and the northeastern city of Shenyang earlier this month to meet Chinese officials and South Korean diplomats there for discussions on China's repatriation of North Korean defectors to the homeland.

Park's campaign grabbed further media attention on Feb. 21, when she went on a hunger strike in front of the Chinese embassy in Seoul to urge Beijing not to return the defectors to the North where they could face harsh punishment.

She also presented a resolution against the repatriation of defectors, which was approved by the National Assembly's plenary session on Monday.

Chinese embassy officials were not immediately available for comment.

The move comes amid a rare diplomatic standoff between South Korea and China over the handling of North Korean defectors in China.

Seoul had previously sought what is dubbed "quiet diplomacy" with Beijing to settle such issues, but it has taken an unusually tough stance on the latest case amid domestic pressure to save the North Koreans.

Last week, President Lee Myung-bak urged Beijing to follow international norms on the matter.

In Geneva, South Korea Ambassador Kim Bong-hyun asked all countries concerned to refrain from forced repatriation of North Korean defectors.

South Korea "urges all countries directly concerned to uphold the principle of non-refoulement, thereby refraining from exposing those in desperate situations to the risk of dire consequences," Kim said Monday in a high-level session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

China is the only major ally of North Korea and provides diplomatic support and economic assistance to the impoverished nation. Beijing usually repatriates defectors from North Korea, seeing them as economic migrants, not refugees.(PNA/Yonhap)



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