North Koreans, merely by entering China, are subject to a well-founded fear of persecution if caught and sent back. China is in clear breach of obligations it has freely undertaken toward these North Korean refugees.
Kim Jong Il's regime survives not in spite of, but in cahoots with, China--one of Kim's major trading partners, business conduits and bulwarks of support.
Whatever embarrassments China might have to put up with over this partnership, Beijing on balance derives advantages from its role as a broker of international efforts to contain North Korea.
This in turn gives Beijing an interest in preserving a convenient degree of instability on the Korean peninsula.
[Claudia Rosett, writing at Forbes.com]