China asked not to repatriate 8 N. Korean defectors

Indo Asian News Service

Seoul, April 24 (IANS) The Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday urged the Chinese government not to repatriate eight North Korean defectors, who would face "a real risk of torture, incarceration in forced labour camps and public executions".

"The government in Beijing should respect its obligations under the Refugee Convention by protecting these eight North Koreans, and under no circumstances force them back to North Korea," HRW Asia director Phil Robertson said in a statement.

The petition is in reference to eight North Koreans who have been detained since March, after being identified by China's Ministry of Public Security during a routine check on a highway near the city of Shenyang, Efe news reported.

North Korean defectors are compelled to choose this route of escape, given the impossibility of reaching South Korea by land and that Beijing will not harbour the defectors because China does not consider them political refugees.

People who flee North Korea typically attempt to travel to Thailand or Mongolia, via China.

The defectors can then request asylum at South Korean embassies and consulates in those third party countries.

Several who have managed to survive claim that the North Korean regime routinely punishes those who are repatriated by "subjecting them to torture, sexual violence, forced labour - and even worse," Robertson said in the statement.

Activists and family members of the defectors have informed HRW, that over the last nine months, 41 North Koreans have been detained in China.

The non-profit believes that China has deported at least nine of the detainees have been deported back to North Korea.

--IANS

ksk/dg