By Winnie Liang, Grade 12
That Albert Einstein — brilliant scientist, social activist, and humanitarian — was a refugee is a well-known fact. Aside from him, however, an incalculable number of people have fled their homelands in the face of rampant human rights violations and armed conflicts. A couple notable examples are British playwright Tom Stoppard, who fled from the imminent Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia as a child refugee, and Somali Canadian musician and activist K’naan, who left his home country to escape from the raging civil war.
Likewise, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have fled to neighbouring China for survival. Whether the number of defectors is 30,000-50,000 (as estimated by the State Department) or 300,000 (as estimated by some non-governmental organizations), they are all refugees as defined by the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Unfortunately, unlike the very few lucky individuals who have successfully gained asylum, most of them must live underground to avoid being captured by Chinese authorities. Anyone who has ever so unfortunately been caught is to be repatriated to North Korea, where they may face imprisonment, torture, and even execution. The Chinese government’s action is a clear violation of international law.