North Koreans who cross the northern border into China cannot be considered refugees by Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
“Those from the DPRK who illegally crossed the border to China are not refugees,” Lu Kang, spokesperson for the PRC foreign ministry, told press at a regular briefing on Monday.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the DPRK said on Friday in Seoul that the UN was “alarmed” by the alleged increase of repatriations of North Koreans from China.
Asked about the comments, Lu insisted that DPRK citizens crossing the border had “violated Chinese law by illegally entering China.”
“The Chinese government always properly handles the illegal entry of the DPRK citizens in accordance with domestic and international laws and on humanitarian grounds,” he added.
Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana on Friday called on China to “address this problem by giving special protection to DPRK (North Korea) citizens who transit through China’s territory.”
“Women continue to be especially vulnerable to violent practices when they are sent back,” he added. “Strip-searches, cavity inspections, verbal abuse and sexual violence are still known to happen in holding centers near the border with China.”
China on Monday responded strongly to the comments, calling on the UN “to abide by purposes and principles of the UN Charter” and to “respect the normal law enforcement work of Chinese judicial authorities.”
China has long attracted criticism for its deportation of North Korean escapees, who face severe punishments if returned home.
Thousands of North Koreans cross into China every year, and, while definitive figures are hard to come by, up to 100,000 have been estimated to be living as illegal immigrants in the PRC.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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