North Korean national Jong Yol Ri snuck away from the 57th International Mathematical Olympiad at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. and on July 16 found refuge at the South Korean Consulate General in Hong Kong.
It is believed it was the first time that a North Korean defector had abdicated in Hong Kong since 1996, before the United Kingdom handed the city back to China. And it’s a situation that could test Beijing’s relations with Seoul and Pyongyang.
Hong Kong resident Owen Lau Kwun-hang said the recent case of Jong Yol Ri should prompt widespread discussion among the community on how Hong Kong should be responding when defectors from North Korea surface. “At least people would know what to do … and when necessary, a well-informed society could apply pressure on relevant authorities if the status of a defector is at risk,” he said.
Largely unknown to many, the North Korean Defectors Concern (NKDC) has recently been thrust into limelight by media organizations seeking comment since the North Korean defector sought refuge in Hong Kong. Lau and three friends founded the NKDC in 2012, a group focused on advocating for human rights and protesting Beijing’s repatriation of defectors from the secretive state.
As part of the NKDC’s advocacy and education efforts, Lau will host the annual North Korea Human Rights Film Festival at the Chinese University from August 12 to 14. The group is hoping to have a number of other North Korean defectors attend the festival for sharing sessions.
It was a chance refueling stop somewhere between the North Korean capital of Pyongyang and the border town of Sinuiju that gave four Hong Kong students a forbidden glimpse into the secretive state back in 2012. When the train stopped, Owen Lau Kwun-hang said they were confronted by a group of beggars pleading for food. “An elderly woman with her grandchildren came up to us. We gave them cakes,” Lau, now a secondary school liberal studies teacher, recalled.
[South China Morning Post]