How China breaks up refugees' homes

How China breaks up refugees' homes

By Kay Seok, North Korea researcher at Human Rights Watch

Published in The International Herald Tribune

"She went to the police station," the 6-year-old girl said in a barely audible voice. When asked if she knew what happened to her mother, she hung her head and stared at the floor. At the end of the interview, during which she said very little, I realized she was holding onto the hem of my jacket. I wondered if I reminded her of her mother.

Burmese authorities arrested journalists Thet Zin and Sein Win Aung of Myanmar Nation magazine at their office in Thingan Gyun township in Rangoon on the night of February 15, and have since detained them without charge in a nearby police station. Thet Zin, a prominent dissident, and his colleague were collecting material on the government�s crackdown on protests in Rangoon last September and the United Nations� response to the events.

�Burma�s military regime has once again shown its intolerance toward different political viewpoints by arresting journalists who were doing nothing more than reporting news and opinions,� said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. �How can the Burmese authorities create even the semblance of a credible constitutional referendum in May when they won�t allow journalists to report the news?�

The nongovernmental organization Reporters Without Borders, in its annual report issued last week, documented nine prominent journalists in detention in Burma, including 78-year-old U Win Tin, who has been imprisoned since July 1989. The arrest of Thet Zin and Sein Win Aung bring to 11 the number of journalists known to be detained in Burma.

Burma�s government continues to sharply restrict media freedoms through a draconian system of press scrutiny that requires all domestic copy to be vetted and approved by the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division of the Ministry of Information (formerly controlled by the Ministry of Home Affairs). Journalists are routinely banned from publishing if their stories are thought to contain material critical of the military or positive towards the political opposition. Telecommunications, the internet, and even mobile phones are regulated to deter the free dissemination of information, both domestically and internationally.

�Burma�s generals refuse to tolerate any criticism, however well-intentioned,� said Adams. �The arrests of journalists and repression of access to information deny the Burmese people any real opportunity to debate the proposed new constitution.�

In addition, the Ministry of Home Affairs on February 13 informed U Tin Oo, one of the leaders of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), that his house arrest order would be extended for another year. The ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) prolonged U Tin Oo�s house arrest a year ago. A former Army chief of staff who was purged in the late 1970s, U Tin Oo joined the NLD in 1988 and was arrested following the brutal government crackdown on NLD members in Depayin in late May 2003. He also spent much of the 1990s in prison and under house arrest.

The Burmese government has continued to arrest political activists in the wake of its crackdown against monks and political activists in August and September 2007. More than 1,800 political dissidents remain in prison in Burma for their involvement in peaceful political activities, a dramatic increase from a year ago. Many of the leaders of the �88 Generation Students group, such as Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and other veteran activists from the mass protests in 1988, have been in custody since August.

Human Rights Watch has grave fears for the health and welfare of prominent political activists such as Hkun Tun Oo, the leader of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), arrested in 2005 after criticizing the SPDC�s flawed constitution-writing process. He is reportedly seriously ill with diabetes and prostate complications in Putao prison in Kachin State. The labor activist Ma Su Su Nway, who was arrested in Rangoon in November 2007, also remains in detention despite a serious heart condition.

Human Rights Watch has serious concerns about access to adequate health care for both activists and called on the government to allow access to independent and competent doctors to determine whether the two, who in any case be should released, require better medical treatment. The International Committee of the Red Cross has not been permitted unfettered visits to Burma�s prisons since late 2005, and has suspended its visits.

This week, the United Nations special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, is scheduled to visit China, India, and other Asian countries to gather support for his efforts to foster political reform in Burma. The SPDC has been delaying a trip by Gambari to Burma. The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Paulo Sιrgio Pinheiro, has still not been granted a visa to conduct his final research mission before he reports to the UN Human Rights Council in March.

�Despite plans for a constitutional referendum in May, the Burmese authorities are pursuing a policy of repression rather than reform,� said Adams. �Neighboring countries like China, India, and Thailand need to start putting serious public pressure on the Burmese authorities to end these serious human rights abuses.�
The Children's Rights Division monitors human rights abuses against children around the world and works to end them. We investigate all kinds of human rights abuses against children: the use of children as soldiers; the worst forms of child labor; torture of children by police; police violence against street children; conditions in correctional institutions and orphanages; corporal punishment in schools; mistreatment of refugee and migrant children; trafficking of children for labor and prostitution; discrimination in education because of race, gender, sexual orientation, or HIV/AIDS; and physical and sexual violence against girls and boys. Children's physical and intellectual immaturity makes them particularly vulnerable to human rights violations. Their ill-treatment calls for special attention because, for the most part, children cannot speak for themselves, their opinions are seldom taken into account and they can only rarely form their own organizations to work for change

The girl's Chinese father, a tanned, middle-aged farmer, explained how the child's North Korean mother was arrested by the police and sent back to North Korea in 2005. They had not heard from her since. The only good thing that came out of this tragedy was that the father could finally register the girl on his hukou, or household registration, meaning that she can attend school. In China, despite laws saying all children are entitled to nine years of elementary education, in reality, this only happens if a child can produce a hukou document.

"Where I live, if you want to obtain hukou for a child with a North Korean mother, you must obtain a police document verifying the mother's arrest and repatriation," said the girl's father. As a matter of policy, the local government is breaking up families and leaving children motherless. Once repatriated, the women are likely never to see their children again.

China continues to arrest and repatriate North Korean women, although they could face mistreatment, imprisonment, torture and even execution because, under North Korea's penal code, leaving the country without state permission can be considered an act of treason.

This strong risk of persecution upon return means that, under international law, many North Koreans in China are considered to be refugees. As a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the Chinese government has an obligation not to repatriate them, an obligation that Beijing ignores.

The 6-year-old girl who clung to my jacket lives in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in the eastern Jilin Province of northeast China, which has a large concentration of ethnic Koreans. Since the mid-1990s, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans escaped to China to avoid a famine that is estimated to have killed one million people, or about 5 percent of the population.

Her mother was among the North Korean women who ended up living with a Chinese man in a de-facto marriage. Some women entered such a relationship voluntarily while others are victims of trafficking. Local residents estimate that there are several thousand to tens of thousands of children born to North Korean mothers and Chinese fathers in the area. The Chinese fathers face a painful dilemma: They can register their children at the risk of exposing the mothers, who could be arrested and repatriated to North Korea, or they don't register their children, who then remain unable to attend school.

Desperate parents resort to bribing school officials, borrowing a Chinese child's hukou, or even buying a fake hukou to give the children access to education. But these measures are illegal, work only temporarily and certainly can't be used beyond elementary education.

Children who have migrated from North Korea with their parents are even more vulnerable than those that are half-Chinese, since it is impossible for them to obtain hukou. In some cases their parents are repatriated to North Korea, but the North Korean children remain behind.

"I am afraid they will find out I am North Korean, and kick me out of school," said a 13-year-old North Korean girl, who began attending school in 2007 by borrowing a Chinese girl's hukou. "Because I don't have hukou, I started school only this year, and I am four years older than my classmates, who are all Chinese."

Under China's Nationality Law, the children born to North Korean mothers and Chinese fathers are entitled to Chinese nationality. But there is a huge gap between rights and reality: The 6-year-old child should have been registered under her father's hukou, regardless of her mother's status. She should have been given access to education without any preconditions. And her mother should have been treated as a refugee and never have been repatriated to North Korea.

It is time for Beijing to take steps that are not only sensible and humane, but which would simply enforce China's own laws, and the international treaties it has ratified. All children in China must be able to attend school, regardless of residency status or nationality. Beijing has nothing to gain by continuing to ignore the rights of these children as it will inherit a new generation who are neither registered nor educated. In fact, Beijing has a lot to lose.

Hundreds of Burmese monks being massacred and tortured

By Avaaz
Our emergency petition to stop the crackdown on peaceful protesters in Burma is approaching 600,000 signatures, from every nation of the world, and is closing fast on our 1 million goal. But the situation in Burma remains desperate, with reports of hundreds of monks being massacred and tortured. Burma's rulers have also killed and expelled international journalists, cutting off global media coverage of their cruelty.

China is still the key - the country with the most power to halt the Burmese generals' reign of terror. We're delivering our message this week with a massive ad campaign in major newspapers, beginning Thursday with a full page ad in the Financial Times worldwide, and in the South China Morning Post. The strength of the ad comes from the number of petition signers listed – can we reach our goal of 1 million signatures this week? The link to sign the petition and view the ad is below, forward this email to all your friends and family!


China continues to provide key economic and military support to Burma's dictatorship, but it has been openly critical of the crackdown. Now we need the government to match words with actions. Our ad paints a powerful moment of choice for China in its relationship with the world – will it be a responsible and respected member of the global community, or will it be associated with tyranny and oppression?

People power, on the streets of Burma, and around the world, can triumph over tyranny. Our strength is in our numbers, spread the word!

With hope and determination,

Ricken, Paul, Ben, Graziela, Pascal, Galit and the whole Avaaz team.

For the best local reporting on the situation in Burma, try these links:




Avaaz.org is staffed by a global team of campaigners operating on 3 continents. We have administrative offices in London, New York, and Rio de Janeiro. Please direct mail to our NY office at 260 Fifth Avenue, 9th floor, New York, NY 10001 U.S.A.

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Blaming China

It seems to blame China is the salient meme in the mainstream media
for what is happening in Burma, so I did a bit of a search after seeing
'The Chaser' and seeing their bit about how our very own ADF help train
the Burma Military and stuff.

There is a big long list of DIRTY LIST companies that you can boycott or tell them to get fucked about Burnma.

They ask to:
"Please contact one or more of the companies on the Dirty List and
ask them to cut their ties with Burma’s military government. If
appropriate, tell them you will not purchase their products as long as
they continue to support the regime in Burma."

I did a search of the Burma Dirty List UK website for Australia+Australian companies and the results are HERE so tell them to get fucked too.

Re: Blaming China - Lists

companies – who’s in, who’s

The Good
A large number of foreign companies have pulled out of Burma over
the last five years, the reasons for doing so include: difficulties
in working with the regime, consumer boycotts, damage to company
reputation, or incompatibility with corporate values. These companies
now include amongst others: Levi Strauss, Pepsico, Ericcson, Heineken,
Carlsberg, British Home Stores, Burton, River Island, Apple, Best
Western, Reebok and Compaq.

In 2001 significant divestment continued. Eighteen Australian companies
cut their economic ties with Burma as a result of an international
campaign against human rights abuses in the country. The companies
include Fosters Brewing Group, Ikea Australia, Intrepid Travel,
Mitsubishi Motors Australia, Telstra Corp and Multiplex Constructions.

The Anglo-Norwegian engineering group Kvaerner ASA announced the
cancelling of a $30 million deal with Premier Petroleum Myanmar
Ltd. within 24 hours of having signed the deal. The cancellation
came after fierce public criticism from the Norwegian media and
human rights groups.

Sara Lee, a leading retailer of underwear in the United States with
nearly $17.5 billion dollars in annual revenue and owners of Hanes,
Hanes Her Way, Leggs, and Just My Size brands ceased production
of its garments in Burma. In a letter to the Free Burma Coalition
Sara Lee Vice President and Chief Counsel Melvin L. Ortner wrote,
‘We want the Free Burma Coalition to know that production in
Burma violates both our Global Operating Principles and our Supplier
Selection Guidelines... two of our licensees did use Burma facilities
in direct violation of their contract with us... We have taken immediate
steps with both licensees to confirm that neither will make our
product in Burma again.’

In January 2002 the Burma Campaign UK, won a major victory over
the Swiss company Triumph International who have been producing
garments in Burma. After a short and aggressive high profile campaign
against Triumph, the company agreed to withdraw from Burma by May

The Bad
Despite the success of the international pro-democracy movement
in pushing companies to withdraw and dissuading others from investing,
some multinationals still refuse to act responsibly.

These companies include: Premier Oil, TotalFineElf, Unocal, British
American Tobacco, Sea Containers, Mitsubishi and Suzuki.

Though few, they are critical to the survival of the dictatorship.
The energy sector companies in particular have played a significant
role in buttressing the regime financially (see fuelling the oppression

Newspapers too cowardly to publish paid appeal ads

Today, our petition to China and the UN Security Council to stop the brutal crackdown on peaceful Burmese protesters is being delivered to the world in a full page ad in the Financial Times worldwide -- but the ad was rejected by other newspapers like the South China Morning Post and the Singapore Straits Times. Our message is an invitation to China to do the right thing in Burma, not an attack -- yet even that seemed too much for media that fear Chinese reprisals.

We won't let our voice be silenced like this. We're taking our message to the streets, in an international day of action on Saturday -- details are on our petition page, and below. And we're redoubling our efforts to make our voice louder: our petition is approaching 600,000 signatures, closing fast on our 1 million goal.The petition link is below - send this email to all your friends and family and help us reach 1 million voices by Saturday!


To organize an event for the global day of action, just follow the steps below. To attend an event, scroll down our petition page at the link above for a list of events around the world. Here's some simple steps for organizers:

  • Choose a public place or landmark in your town, and organize friends to go there all wearing the same maroon red clothing as the Burmese monks. Tell local media about your plans, and email the details and contact information to dayofaction@avaaz.org -- we will try to advertise your event on our petition page.
  • Ask people attending your event to share their feelings on this crisis and the need for action, and then tie a red ribbon or piece of cloth around fences or trees to leave a more lasting sign of your support for the Burmese.
    The worldwide outcry to save Burma's peaceful monks and protesters is one more sign of how the world is getting closer, feeling increasingly responsible to each other, and for each other as human beings. We're bringing a voice of humanity to this desperate situation, and we must not be silenced.

    With hope and determination,

    Ricken, Paul, Graziela, Ben, Sarah, Iain, Galit, Pascal, Milena and the whole Avaaz Team.

    PS – Here are some great links for local reporting on the current situation in Burma:



  • How German arms, trade and training strengthened the butchers

    Since the early 50s German arms, trade and training have helped strengthen the mass-murdering Burmese tyrants. A detailed story on that is available at http://publish.indymedia.org/en/2007/10/893519.shtml . Because it looks back several decades the report, which appears to have been someone’s thesis or some such academic exercise, is outdated in part. It is nonetheless very worthwhile reading because it goes to the roots of how the close ties have developed historically between German business interests, the German government and the military butchers who have ruled in Burma since 1962. The story highlights the special relationship one particular German firm, Fritz Werner Industry, has had with the Burmese regime since the early 1950's. I first saw the posting at German IndyMedia whose arrogant and impertinent controllers stamped it as “not original” and are likely to take it down – although earlier on they had published an abridged version of the very same story in German. Go to http://de.indymedia.org/2007/10/195833.shtml.

    Diet Simon

    Re: Hundreds of Burmese monks being massacred and tortured

    Oil Giant Chevron Urged to Cut Ties with Burmese Military Junta

    Chevron is one of the largest foreign investors in Burma and is the
    only remaining major U.S. corporation with a significant presence
    there. In 2005, Chevron bought the company Unocal weeks after the
    latter settled a lawsuit accusing it of assisting the Burmese military
    junta in the torture, murder and rape of villagers during construction
    of a pipeline. We play excerpts of the documentary Total Denial and
    speak to Katherine Redford, one of the attorneys who brought the suit.

    [includes rush transcript]


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