Kim Eunsun speaking in London on October 25. Screenshot.

CHINA: China forcibly repatriates North Korean refugees—especially Christians

Those who had any contact with religion in China may be jailed for life when they return to North Korea.

by Nang Ji-Na


Bitter Winter (14.11.2023) – We are all accustomed to deal with refugees “from” China. Yet, as strange as it may seem, there are also refugees who go “to” China. What kind of refugees would escape to China believing Xi Jinping’s country is freer than their own? The answer is—North Koreans.

China is one of the worst countries in the world for human rights. North Korea is “the” worst. You have better chances to be arrested, tortured, and executed in North Korea than in any other country of the world for a variety of reasons, and even for no reason whatsoever. If they could, North Koreans would escape elsewhere, but geography is such that from some parts of their unfortunate country the only place they can go with some chances of success in crossing the border is China, although some die while trying.

However, North Korean refugees are not safe in China. Young women may profit of the shortage of brides in China, a relic of the one-child policy when families aborted the girls and kept the boys, and marry a Chinese. However, there are many horrific tales of North Korean “slave brides” who never learn to speak Chinese and are abused and terrorized by their husbands. Other North Korean girls end up in the hands of Chinese organized crime and are trafficked as prostitutes.

Yet, this is not the worst possibility for North Korean refugees. The worst fate awaits those China decides to deport back to North Korea, something Xi Jinping’s regime does regularly, although somewhat capriciously. On October 25, 2023, a brave North Korean woman who was once repatriated from China and finally succeeded in escaping, gave a lecture in London. Her name is Kim Eunsun, and she published in 2012 her memoir “A Thousand Miles to Freedom,” translated into several languages.

Kim reported that China just deported back to North Korea 600 refugees, and may deport another 1,000 soon. Kim said life for refugees in China is precarious. They are expected not to “make trouble” or they are deported immediately. She offered the example of young girls who are raped. If they go to the Chinese police, rather than being helped they are deported. Yet, they still prefer to remain in China rather than being repatriated to North Korea. They know they will be jailed, tortured, and possibly killed there.

Since pregnancies need authorization in North Korea, if deported back to China “pregnant women are subjected to unspeakable abuse, beatings and in some cases forced abortions,” Kim added.

Chinese authorities treat those they have decided to repatriate as criminals. “Forced repatriation is also accompanied by human rights violations in China,” Kim said. “In the Chinese border security centers, [those awaiting deportations are] forced to defecate in plastic buckets in cells with surveillance cameras operating 24 hours a day and sometimes have to listen to the sounds of screams as people are beaten and shocked with electric batons. The human rights violations that occur during and after forced repatriation are ruthless and dehumanizing.”

Kim added that the North Korean regime has spies in China. The refugees who get in contact with religion there, which mostly means Christian churches, may be jailed for life if they are repatriated. It does not matter whether the church they contacted was part of the CCP-controlled Three Self Church. “Those who have been involved with churches in China are subjected to harsh interrogation. I never saw anyone who faced those interrogations ever released from detention. Merely meeting a Christian in China makes one a political criminal,” Kim said.

Poster protesting the forced repatriations from China. From X.

Further reading about FORB in China on HRWF website