Open Letter to President Xi Jinping re: Halting the Forcible Repatriation of North Korean Refugees in China

The full open letter can be viewed here.

21 November 2017


President Xi Jinping

General Secretary Office

Central Committee of the Communist Party of China

Zhongnanhai Ximen, Fuyou Street

Xicheng District, Beijing 100017

People’s Republic of China

Re: APPRN East Asia Working Group Calls upon China to immediately stop the forcible repatriation of 10 North Korean refugees

Dear President Xi Jinping,

We write to you in our capacity as the Chair and Deputy Chair of the East Asia Working Group of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), a network of more than 320 civil society organisations and individuals from 28 countries committed to advancing the rights of refugees across the Asia Pacific region.

The East Asia Working Group is concerned that 10 nationals from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), including a four year old child, are currently detained in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and appear to be facing imminent repatriation. They were arrested in a raid on a safe house in Shenyang, Liaoning province, on 4 November 2017. If repatriated, they face an extreme risk of torture, imprisonment, and possibly even execution.

The DPRK restricts its citizens from leaving the country and severely punishes those who attempt to escape. The 2014 report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK found that refugees forcibly repatriated are commonly subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, summary execution, forced abortions, and other sexual violence.

Given these well-documented human rights violations, China’s forcible repatriation would violate its international law obligations, including the Convention against Torture and the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The Committee against Torture’s concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of China said, with reference to nationals of the DPRK, that:

“… under no circumstance should the State party expel, return or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would be in danger of being subjected to torture”

Additionally, the Committee called upon China to:

“Immediately cease forcible repatriation of undocumented migrants and victims of trafficking to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and allow UNHCR personnel unimpeded access to nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea who have crossed the border, in order to determine if they qualify for refugee status.”


The East Asia Working Group respectfully calls upon you to halt the repatriation of the 10 DPRK nationals, allow them to meet with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees personnel to determine their status and guarantee their personal safety, including passage to a third country where required.



Il Lee

Chair, East Asia Working Group

Advocates for Public Interest Law, South Korea


Piya Muqit

Deputy Chair, East Asia Working Group

Justice Centre Hong Kong 


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Justice Centre Hong Kong

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