Over the years many North Koreans have fled to China (and elsewhere), to escape the dire conditions created by the late lunatic dictator Kim Jong-il's leadership. But rather than helping these people, China has been sending them back knowing full well it's a death sentence.
In fact, in the 100 days of mourning for papa Jong-il, Jong-un decided to step up the tracking down of defectors:
As Kim Jong-Un attempts to consolidate his power in North Korea, one of the new regime's focus has been arresting as many North Koreans in China as possible. Right now, North Korea has sent into China a task force of covert agents numbering in the thousands -- a scale simply unprecedented -- who would pretend to be North Korean defectors, only to rat out true defectors to the Chinese police. The Chinese police arrests these defectors and repatriate them back to North Korea. Once back in North Korea, these defectors will face near certain deaths in gulags out of hard labor and starvation. Recently, there was an arrest of 28 North Korean defectors in China, who will be repatriated back to North Korea in just a few days. Right now, even as we speak, these defectors are essentially facing a death penalty if they are sent back to North Korea. Some of the defectors' families in South Korea (who defected before this group of defectors) are pleading that if these defectors are to be sent back to North Korea, they are better off killing themselves in the Chinese prison.
And it's not just North Koreans who hunt down these defector 'refugees', China is actively involved in doing the same thing, in spite of the fact that China is a party to the U.N. Refugee Convention, its 1967 Protocol and the U.N. Convention Against Torture. The U.N. is supposed to have access to refugees, but China has categorically refused.
Over 5,000 people per annum are repatriated to North Korea from China, and pregnant women who are deported are forced to abort their babies if they are half Chinese.
But it seems that the lives of North Koreans in China are as tragic as they probably were in their homeland, especially for women. According to Robert Park, a human rights activist, writing for the Mercury News:
Sixty to 70 percent of the North Korean refugees in China are women, 70 to 80 percent of whom, without recourse to legal rights or protections, have become victims of sex trafficking. Their children conceived through rape are considered stateless in China and are vulnerable to trafficking and abandonment. Furthermore, innumerable children who escaped from North Korea with their parents have become orphans because one or both of their parents were found by Chinese officials. These children also usually end up homeless or become victims of exploitation.Park says that North Korean refugees are welcome in South Korea, and are considered citizens and thus should have diplomatic protection, but that doesn't seem to make any difference to the Chinese who currently have 80 defectors detained in prison ready to be sent home.
Among them are a 16-year-old orphan who escaped North Korea after losing his parents in an attempt to find an older brother in South Korea, and a 19-year-old woman whose parents live in Seoul. If sent back to North Korea, they will be tortured and most likely killed. Kim Jong-un vowed in January to annihilate those who attempt to leave the country and their entire families.
In spite of requests from South Korea not to repatriate nine caputured refugees, last week China sent them back anyway.
The problem is no-one seems to want to ruffle China's feathers, and so North Korean's will continue to be shipped back to an uncertain fate.