A South Korean legislator who has staged a 10-day hunger strike outside the Chinese embassy collapsed yesterday during a rally denouncing Beijing’s repatriation of North Korean refugees.
Park Sun-young, from the conservative opposition Liberty Forward Party, fainted while leading the rally by about 100 religious and other activists.
“We want China to immediately stop repatriation,” the activists shouted as Park was carried to an ambulance.
The rally came as visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) met with South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Kim Sung-hwan for talks on North Korea and other issues.
Yang was scheduled to visit South Korean President Lee Myung-bak later in the day.
Park, 55, launched her fast on Feb. 21, vowing to continue until death unless Beijing ends its policy of sending back North Koreans rather than treating them as refugees.
Braving sub-zero night temperatures, she has been living in a tent near the embassy. Her strike has sparked a fresh series of anti--Beijing protests and rallies.
Activists and Seoul lawmakers said about 30 North Koreans who recently fled to China would soon be sent back. They face harsh punishment or even death in their homeland, according to the activists.
Some have already been returned, according to local media reports. Seoul has repeatedly urged Beijing to treat North Koreans as refugees and not repatriate them. China says they are economic migrants and not refugees.
The UN Refugee Agency and rights watchdog Amnesty International have also urged Beijing not to send North Koreans back. Amnesty says returnees are sent to labor camps where they are subject to torture.