October 29, 2021

China’s New Land Borders Law Is a Nightmare for North Korean Refugees

Beijing recently passed a new Land Borders Law to “protect territorial sovereignty and land border security” amid long-standing territorial disputes and concerns over the spread of COVID-19. While the law is not likely to change preexisting border security policies, it will impact the safety of refugees residing in China. North Korean refugees, in particular, will face increased challenges as this new law will likely embolden Chinese law enforcement to continue rejecting, detaining, and forcibly repatriating North Koreans attempting to defect.

A combination of high-level pressure from foreign governments and steady support for grassroots refugee resettlement organizations and programs is the most practical way to assist North Korean refugees seeking freedom.

Despite its status as a signatory to both the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1987 Protocol, the Chinese government routinely repatriates North Korean refugees back to North Korea where they face harsh punishments for attempting to defect, ranging from years of forced labor to torture and public execution. Although the main focus of China’s new land law relates to territorial disputes with neighboring countries like India, it also contains specific language applicable to the influx of outside populations: “The state shall take measures to safeguard territorial integrity and land boundaries and guard against and combat any act that undermines territorial sovereignty and land boundaries.” The official codification of a land borders law will provide more domestic justification for the unlawful treatment and repatriation of North Korean refugees crossing the border into China under the guise of “protecting national security.”

Read the full article from The Diplomat.

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia