Sat, Jun 22, 2019 - Page 6 News List

UN official urges China not to deport North Koreans

Reuters, SEOUL

China should not repatriate the increasing number of North Korean escapees it has arrested because severe punishment faces those deported home, a UN human rights investigator said yesterday.

At least 30, if not more, North Korean escapees have been rounded up in raids across China since mid-April, families and activist groups said this month, in what activists have called a “severe” crackdown.

At the time, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it was not aware of any arrests.

Activists and lawyers said that there is no sign yet that the North Koreans have been deported.

“Information suggests China may have recently strengthened the search for North Korean escapees in collaboration with the government of North Korea,” UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea Tomas Ojea Quintana said.

“Repatriated North Koreans are at great risk of serious human rights violations, including torture,” Quintana told reporters in Seoul. “The government of North Korea criminalizes those who cross the border irregularly.”

Quintana said that he had raised concerns over the fate of North Korean escapees detained in China and discussed the issue with South Korean officials during his visit to Seoul.

Escapees might face particularly severe punishment, including being sent to political prison camps, if they intended to defect to South Korea or if they were helped by Christian groups, he added.

The North Korean government plays a role in exacerbating the nation’s food shortages, he added.

North Korean officials have adopted “failing economic and agricultural policies,” including central rationing systems plagued by shortcomings and discriminatory allocation, he said.

“Climate conditions, infertile land and the negative impact of sanctions have contributed to further food security,” Quintana said. “At the same time, the government is not developing conditions where people can securely access food through markets without being criminalized.”

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