Thu 5 Jul 2012
Filed under: On The Border
A Yunnan Province border official has denied that China has forced Kachin displaced refugees to return to a dangerous region of civil war in their country.
The denial was published in an article in China Daily on Thursday in response to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in June claiming that China forced some Kachin refugees from northern Burma to return to their country, as well as refused to offer them basic humanitarian care.
There has been no significant influx of Kachin refugees and none have been forced to return, said Sun Konglong, the deputy secretary-general of the Dehong prefecture government. Fighting between the Kachin Independence Organization and the Burmese army resumed in June 2011, which has forced about 3,000 Kachin border residents, mostly women, children and elderly, to enter Dehong to seek refuge with their Chinese relatives, Sun said.
The current situation along the Chinese border is orderly and stable, and there has been no disorderly assembly of Kachin refugees in China, Sun was quoted as saying.
China will offer more aid if border residents asked for more assistance, Sun said.
On June 26, Mizzima reported that HRW issued a report saying that 7,000 to 10,000 Kachin refugees from Burma have sought refuge across the border in Yunnan Province in southwestern China.
“The Chinese government has generally tolerated Kachin refugees staying in Yunnan, but now needs to meet its international legal obligations to ensure refugees are not returned and that their basic needs are met,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “China has no legitimate reason to push them back to Burma or to leave them without food and shelter.”
The 68-page report, “Isolated in Yunnan: Kachin Refugees from Burma in China’s Yunnan Province,” describes how ethnic Kachin refugees have fled war and abuses in Burma since June 2011, seeking refuge in southwestern China. The report is based on more than 100 interviews with refugees, displaced persons in Burma, victims of abuses, relief workers, and others, said HRW.
Refugees in Yunnan told Human Rights Watch they had received no humanitarian assistance from the government and major humanitarian agencies have had no access to the refugees since they began arriving in June 2011.
The refugees are scattered across more than a dozen makeshift settlements lacking adequate shelter, food, potable water, sanitation, and basic health care, said a summary of the report.
“All of the Kachin refugees with whom Human Rights Watch spoke expressed a desire to eventually return to Kachin State, but not before the conflict ends,” it said.
China is a party to the 1951 Refugee Conventions and its 1967 Protocol as well as other international human rights treaties that provide protections for refugees and asylum seekers. However, China has no law or procedure for determining refugee status and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has not been given access to conduct refugee status determinations but under international law, the lack of a formal recognition mechanism does not negate the fact that someone is a refugee, said HRW.
“The Chinese government has permitted most Kachin refugees to enter and remain in Yunnan, and has allowed a number of small local nongovernmental organizations to provide assistance,” said the report summary. “Local authorities have interviewed the refugees about their reasons for leaving Burma and gathered their basic biographical information. But the Chinese government has not fulfilled its obligations either to provide government assistance or to allow UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies to reach the refugees and provide them food and other necessities.”