China is a member nation of both the "Convention relating to the status of refugees," and the "Protocol relating to the status of refugees." However, it refuses to recognize North Korean defectors as refugees.
By a series of secret contracts sgined in early 1960s, the "Mutual Transfer of Defectors and Criminals Treaty between North Korea and China," and the "1986 Mutual Cooperation Protocol for the Work of Maintaining National Security and Social Order in the Border Areas between China and North Korea," both countries mutually agreed to cooperate on the work of preventing illegal border crossing of residents, which primarily consists of repatriation from China to North Korea. China emphasizes that whether to recognize North Korean defectors as refugees is China's own right. They believe that it is not a matter international institutions or a third party nation, especially the US, should interfere.
Currently, there are about 80 North Korean defectors to be repatriated.
Let's hope we get some action at the US Congress CECC hearing (Congressional-Executive Commission on China).