By Worthy News Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (Worthy News)-- Christian Li Mingshun has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for helping North Koreans fleeing to South Korea, while her fellow Christian, Zhang Yonghu, received a seven-year sentence for organizing transportation for the refugees, trial observers said.
Li and Zhang were reportedly among several Christians helping to provide food, shelter, and transportation for 61 North Korean refugees crossing Northern Chinese provinces into Mongolia, where neutral state laws permit residents to seek asylum in South Korea.
Family members said both Christians plan to appeal the verdicts given by Erlianhaote City People's Procuratorate which were published this week and obtained by Worthy News and its partner agency BosNewsLife Wednesday, September 2.
The Christians were detained by border authorities as the refugees crossed into the Mongolia region on April 29, according to rights investigators.
The verdicts underscore difficulties face by North Koreans in China, who have been denied refugee-status by the Chinese government and repatriated in what critics say is in violation of the United Nations backed Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, which China signed in 1982.
The costs of repatriation are dire, several Christians groups have said. Refugees face charges of treason upon their return to the home country, punishable by death, detention or lifelong imprisonment in labor camps, according to rights groups.
“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,” said advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA).
I am shocked at how the Chinese government treats its own humanitarian workers. They are innocent,” said CAA president and former Chinese house church pastor Bob Fu. Christians have urged the Chinese government to release the two Christians. Chinese officials had no comment. (With reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).