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(LEAD) 5 N.K. defectors face forcible repatriation after arrest in China: UN human rights office

All News 15:27 December 30, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more info in past 2 paras)

SEOUL, Dec. 30 (Yonhap) -- Five North Korean defectors, including a teenager and a pregnant woman, are facing forcible repatriation after they were arrested in China in September, according to a letter released by the U.N. human rights agency.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) disclosed a letter that the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and two U.N. special rapporteurs sent to the Chinese government in October to express "serious concern" about their arrest and detention.

The letter showed that the defectors, including a 14-year-old girl and a woman, who is six months pregnant, were arrested in Huangdao, Shandong province, on Sept. 13 and have been detained in a police station in Qingdao of the same province. They had attempted to reach South Korea.

"We would like to bring to the attention of your Excellency's Government information we have received concerning the arrest, detention and threat of repatriation of five citizens of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in China," the letter read.

The working group and the special rapporteurs on the North Korean human rights situation and on torture -- Tomas Ojea Quintana and Nils Melzer -- stressed that the teenager and the pregnant women require "special protection and health attentions."

They also made an appeal for China to take "all necessary measures" to ensure the rights of the defectors' liberty and to fair proceedings before an impartial tribunal will not be deprived arbitrarily.

The three also asked China to provide the legal grounds for the defectors' arrest and detention, their charges and updated information of their current status.

Seoul's foreign ministry said it has been making diplomatic efforts to ensure that North Korean defectors arrested in China will not be repatriated against their will.

The ministry stressed that it cannot divulge any details on the latest defection case in consideration of the defectors' safety and diplomatic relations with China.


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