A North Korean man has pleaded with the Chinese president Xi Jinping not to forcibly repatriate his wife and young son, saying they face imprisonment or death if sent home.
China forcibly repatriates North Koreans despite being a party to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, which obliges signatories not to return refugees if it may put them at risk of persecution or torture. It regards the defectors as illegal migrants rather than refugees.
His wife and his four-year-old son are understood to have been among a group of 10 North Koreans detained in China last week after secretly crossing the border.China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a news briefing that she was unaware of details of the case. She said China consistently upholds the handling of such matters in accordance with domestic and international law and humanitarian principles.
"North Korean refugees and their families overseas deserve international support," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for the charity, said in a statement. "Governments around the world and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees should call on China to stop sending North Koreans back across the border to face torture, forced labor, sexual abuse, and worse," he said.
Lord Alton, who is chair of the UK's cross-party parliamentary group on North Korea, told the BBC he had urged the British government to intervene. "Anyone who has read the United Nations' report on North Korea's crimes against humanity knows that these escapees face torture, imprisonment, forcedlaboror even execution," he said.