December 09, 2015

Committee against Torture Calls on China to “Immediately Cease Forcible Repatriation” of North Koreans

*This is a follow-up to Christine Chung’s post, “China Responds to the Committee against Torture,” December 4, 2015.

Today, the Committee against Torture released its “Concluding observations of the fifth periodic report of China.” In particular, paragraph 46 of the report highlights the Committee’s critique of China’s practice of forcibly repatriating North Koreans as economic migrants, despite the certain torture and ill-treatment that awaits them upon refoulement (the return of an alleged refugee to his or her state of origin) to North Korea. The report states:

46. While welcoming the adoption in 2012 of the Exit-Entry Administration Law (see para. 4 (b)), the Committee remains concerned that in the absence of national asylum legislation and administrative procedures the refugee determination process has to be carried out by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Committee is also concerned over the State party’ rigorous policy of forcibly repatriating all nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), on the grounds that they have illegally crossed the border solely on economic reasons. In this regard, the Committee takes note of over 100 testimonies from North Koreans received by UN sources (A/HRC/25/63, paras. 42–45), indicating that persons forcibly repatriated to DPRK are systematically subjected to torture and ill-treatment. In light of this information, the Committee regrets the State party’s failure to clarify, in spite of the questions raised during the dialogue, whether or not DPRK nationals are denied access to refugee determination procedures in China via UNHCR, as reported to the Committee by various sources (art. 3). 

The Committee against Torture then made recommendations to China.

47. The State party should: 
(a) Adopt the necessary legislative measures to fully incorporate into domestic legislation the principle of non-refoulement set out in article 3 of the Convention, and promptly establish a national asylum procedure, in cooperation with UNHCR; 

(b) Immediately cease forcible repatriation of undocumented migrants and trafficking victims to the DPRK and allow UNHCR personnel unimpeded access to DPRK nationals who have crossed the border to determine if they were qualified for refugee status. 

48. The Committee reminds the State party 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. In order to determine the applicability of the obligations that it has assumed under article 3 of the Convention, the State party should thoroughly examine the merits of each individual case, including the overall situation with regard to torture in the country of destination. It should also support effective post-return monitoring arrangements in cases of refoulement, including any conducted by UNHCR.

Source: Committee against Torture, "Concluding observations on the fifth periodic report of China,” ADVANCE UNEDITED VERSION, December 9, 2015,