Beijing’s culpability is actually greater than the report states. No country has more influence over North Korea than China, which has long provided a lifeline of economic aid and political cover to the Kim dynasty of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and, since Dec. 2011, Kim Jong Un, while refusing to do anything about the horrendous cruelty being committed next door. If it wanted to, Beijing could use its considerable influence to press Pyongyang to curb its atrocities. Or Beijing could simply begin welcoming North Koreans who manage to escape, instead of its current practice of treating them as “economic migrants” and forcibly repatriating them to their homeland, where they frequently face detention, torture and sometimes even execution. Instead, Beijing violates international law. Forcibly returning North Korean refugees in these circumstances is a blatant breach of the principle of non-refoulement — the most basic principle of international refugee law, which prohibits returning people against their will to face persecution.
(The illustration above is from the UN’s recent report on North Korea. It was drawn by a former North Korean prisoner Kim Kwang-il.)