The East Belfast MP, a long-time advocate of global religious freedom, said the scheme was having a devastating impact on Christians in particular, who faced execution, torture or forced labour camps upon their return. She made her call during questions to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the House of Commons today (Tuesday).
It came before a meeting hosted by Mrs Long with church leaders and religious advocacy group Open Doors, which heard from a Christian exile from North Korea, whose husband was executed and daughter starved to death. She fled North Korea twice but was returned by the Chinese authorities and held in a forced labour camp.
“The recent UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea told of appalling abuses that rank among the worst we have seen since the Second World War. I asked specifically what conversations were taking place between the British Government and China over the Commission’s call to respect non-refoulement and ending forced repatriation of those who have escaped to China.
“While I welcome discussions having taken place and the issue being raised with the relevant Chinese minister, China flagrantly breaches the principle of non-refoulement. Given there is no doubt those returned to North Korea will face torture and often death, more needs done to stop this practice.
“In the later meeting with church leaders and others, we heard first-hand from a Christian woman who had escaped North Korea, after her husband was executed for his faith and whose daughter starved to death. Her story of her time in a forced labour camp was gruelling and she was fortunate to survive. Her only crime was to have religious faith in a country where the right to freedom of belief is entirely disregarded along with many other basic human rights.
“The Foreign Office have also said that they will be supporting a motion in the UN to condemn the ongoing human rights situation in North Korea. Hopefully, with the attention of the international community, we will see pressure for change and increased freedom for people there.”