Human rights group urges China not to repatriate 5 N.K. defectors

SEOUL-- An international human rights agency on Monday urged China not to repatriate five North Korean defectors who were detained by Chinese authorities earlier this month.

Human Rights Watch said that it has sent a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, which says China should protect them and let the refugees travel to a third country for safety.

In late June, the Chinese military detained a group of the five defectors near Yanji city in the northeast province of Jilin, it said, quoting a North Korean defector living in South Korea, a relative of three of the five refugees. The group is believed to have crossed the Yalu River bordering China and North Korea's upper western edge.

"China should not force these five refugees back to North Korea, where the government is known to severely violate the rights of those sent back using methods such as torture, sexual violence, forced labor and long-term incarceration in North Korea's brutal prison camp system," Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

The rights group made a similar call for China in April as eight North Korean defectors are known to have been detained in China.

North Korea has long been labeled one of the worst human rights violators in the world. The North does not tolerate dissent, holds hundreds of thousands of people in political prison camps and keeps tight control over outside information.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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