China's Mass Deportations to North Korea: Disturbing Trend of Human Rights Violations

In recent months, China has been deporting people en masse to North Korea, where they are threatened with torture and an eternal stay in a camp

by Sededin Dedovic
China's Mass Deportations to North Korea: Disturbing Trend of Human Rights Violations
© Carl Court / Getty Images

China has been deporting people en to North Korea in recent months, leading to heightened fears of torture and inhumane treatment. Defection from North Korea is considered a serious offense, labeling individuals as traitors.

Those deported without permission face prison, and according to the United Nations, North Korean prisons and camps are known for widespread abuse and torture. On October 9, a significant mass deportation took place, with around 500 North Koreans forcibly returned to their homeland from China.

Ethan Hae Seok Shin of the Transitional Justice Working Group confirmed the event, revealing that the detainees were transported by buses and trucks from Chinese prisons under tight security. The handover took place mainly on the bridges spanning the Tumen and Jalu rivers, and the Chinese handcuffs were replaced with rusty and old North Korean handcuffs.

Little is known about the details of the deportations, but the grim reality of abuse and torture in North Korean prisons raises serious concerns about the fate of those forcibly returned.

Diplomats and hackers

During the pandemic, North Korea closed its borders for three and a half years.

After the reopening, the agreement between North Korea and China reportedly led to increased deportations. Priority was given to people who previously cooperated with Kim Jong Un's regime. Let's say diplomats who wanted to escape, or hackers who were involved in cyber operations in China at the behest of the regime.

The regime in Pyongyang appeared to be particularly interested in IT professionals and individuals with access to sensitive information, leading to the deportation of eighty individuals in August. The fate of these people remains uncertain, which raises fears that they could spend the rest of their lives in camps for political prisoners.

Many people from North Korea, who managed to escape to South Korea or other countries, testify about the terrible tortures. The report by the non-governmental organization Korea Future is based on more than a thousand statements from those witnesses.

Before the start of mass deportations in August of this year, the United Nations appealed to China in writing not to deport people from North Korea. "We fear that because of this, they are threatened with severe human rights violations such as sudden and unreasonable arrests, torture, sudden disappearance or extrajudicial executions," reads the letter sent to China by the UN Human Rights Commission in mid-July.

About two months later, the authorities in Beijing sent a reply. They claim that "there is currently no evidence of torture or so-called 'massive human rights violations' in North Korea."