Amnesty International is calling for urgent action.
The Chinese authorities are preparing to
forcibly return at least 21 people to North Korea, where they would be at
serious risk of torture and other ill-treatment, forced labour and death. Any attempt to return them to North
Korea, where they are at risk of grave
human rights violations is against customary international law.
The Chinese authorities are holding a group
of at least 21 North Koreans in the north-eastern city of Changchun for being
in the country illegally en route to South Korea. They were initially detained
in separate locations in Shenyang on 8 February. They intend to return them
forcibly to North Korea reportedly by 20 February. If returned to North Korea,
illegal border-crossers typically face arbitrary detention, torture and other
ill-treatment, and forced labour. They are also at risk of enforced disappearance
in North Korea.
While in China, some of the North Koreans
captured are believed to have had contact with members of a South Korean-based
organization who were trying to help them travel to South Korea. Such contact
puts the North Koreans at risk of even harsher punishment if returned to North
Their plight is made even more precarious
by a January announcement by the North Korean authorities condemning
border-crossers and threatening them with severe punishments. The announcement
comes at a time when the country's leadership is changing:Kim Jong-il died in December 2011, and has
been succeeded by his son Kim Jong-un. Amnesty International is concerned that
the denouncement of border-crossers could signal a crackdown against any
potential dissent at this key time for North Korea
Although China is a state party to the UN
Refugee Convention, it has prevented the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, from
gaining access to North Koreans in China. International law prohibits the
forcible return either directly or indirectly of any individuals to a country
where they are at risk of persecution, torture or other ill-treatment, or
death. Amnesty International believes that all North Koreans in China are
entitled to refugee status because of the threat of these human rights
violations if they were to be returned.
Please write immediately in English or your
Call on the authorities not to forcibly return the North Koreans held in
Changchun to North Korea;
Urge them to allowthe North Koreans
to travel to South Korea, or seek asylum in China and other countries;
Call on them to provide the North Koreans with access to the UNHCR.