A priest who helped refugees escape North Korea has been found dead in China with rights activists suggesting North Korean agents may be responsible for his death, according to a report in the UK Telegraph.

The newspaper reports that Chinese police have launched an investigation into the death of the priest, named as Han Choong-ryul, who worked at Changbai Church in Jilin Province. It says Mr Han's mobile phone is missing, a fact which may place defectors and those who aid them in danger.

The newspaper also quotes Robert Park, a founding member of the Worldwide Coalition to Stop Genocide in North Korea - and a former prisoner of North Korea, saying that the group has "had reports of this sort of thing happening before".

He added that while American and South Korean citizens who aided North Korean refugees in China "might be a little safer", Chinese citizens like Mr Han, who was an ethnic Korean but had Chinese citizenship, "are in danger because their own government does nothing to protect them".