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Thursday, 10 May 2007
Page: 174


Mr Danby asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in writing, on 28 February 2007:

(1)   Does the Government acknowledge the humanitarian crisis involving North Korean refugees hiding in northeast China.

(2)   Is the Government aware that some of these refugees who tried to obtain sanctuary in the US consulate were captured by the Chinese authorities and put into prison, and were also prevented by the Chinese authorities from seeking asylum in other countries; if so, has the Government raised these issues with Chinese authorities; if not, why not.

(3)   Is the Government aware that China, a party to the United Nations (UN) International Convention Regarding the Status of Refugees, which prohibits repatriation of refugees to places from which they have fled, has violated this convention by sending refugees back to North Korea where they face execution or are incarcerated in prison camps; if so, has the Government raised this matter with the UN; if not, why not.

(4)   Is the Government aware that the Shenyang Six, who include North Korean refugee women and orphan boys, were captured by the Chinese authorities, put in jail and not allowed to join their relatives in South Korea and Hawaii; if so, (a) can the Government confirm that these refugees remain in jail and (b) has the Government made any attempt to discuss this situation with China through the Australia-China Human Rights Dialogue.

(5)   Has the Government taken any steps to bring attention to the situation of North Korean refugees in China, or requested that the UN demand that China allow the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to assist North Korean refugees hiding in northeast China; if not, why not.


Mr Downer (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(1)   I am aware of reports regarding North Koreans in China.

(2)   Yes, I am aware of reports of these events taking place in January 2007. We have not specifically raised these reports with Chinese authorities. Australia has raised our longstanding concerns regarding North Koreans in China with the Chinese Government, including at the two most recent Australia-China Human Rights Dialogues, held in 2005 and 2006.

(3)   Australia is concerned that China is not upholding its obligations under the Convention in relation to North Korean border crossers, and has raised these concerns with China during our Human Rights Dialogue. We have also raised our concerns with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

(4)   I am aware of reports of the ‘Shenyang Six’, who were detained in China on 21 December 2006.

(a)   I have no information regarding whether they are still in detention in China or have been returned to North Korea.

(b)   No, the 2007 Australia-China Human Rights Dialogue has not yet taken place.

(5)   Yes. We have urged China through our Human Rights Dialogues to allow the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) access to DPRK border crossers in north-eastern China to determine whether or not they are refugees within the meaning of the Convention. In November 2006, we also raised the humanitarian situation of North Koreans in China with the office of the UNHCR in Beijing.