BEIJING: China on Monday defended its repatriation of North Koreans who have escaped across its border after a United Nations envoy voiced concern about increasing detentions and expulsions. Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, said last week he had shared his concerns with Chinese officials in recent months. But foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Monday that “the persons who illegally trespassed into China are not refugees” and would be handled according to “international law and humanitarian need.” “We hope relevant people can abide by principles in the UN charter to respect normal law enforcement on the Chinese side,” Lu told a regular press briefing. Ojea Quintana said on Friday he was “alarmed by a surge in detentions and forced repatriations of North Koreans” who are caught in China after making it across the border. The envoy said he had reminded Chinese authorities of their obligations under the 1951 refugee convention as well as relevant parts of the UN system. If forcibly returned, North Korean defectors are at risk of persecution, arbitrary detention, torture or other ill-treatment, enforced disappearance and execution, according to Human Rights Watch.