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SEOUL — China has detained 35 North Korean refugees for deportation to their communist homeland, a South Korean Christian group said Sunday.

The refugees are being held in a camp in northeast China, waiting for forced repatriation, the Commission to Help North Korean Refugees said in a bulletin on its website.

They were arrested last week in several cities in a crackdown that intensified after Kim Jong-un, the youngest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, was confirmed as leader-in-waiting a year ago, it said.

The group urged Beijing to stop repatriating the refugees, who flee hunger or repression in North Korea. It also demanded Seoul and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees work for their release.

More than 21,700 North Koreans have fled their impoverished and hunger-stricken homeland since the 1950-1953 Korean War, the vast majority in recent years.

China repatriates those whom it catches despite the risk of harsh punishment in their homeland. Under an agreement with Pyongyang, Beijing treats them as economic migrants.