Updated March. 09, 2012 06:31
China has repatriated 31 North Korean defectors despite international calls not to send them, sources said Thursday.
The Dong-A Ilbo confirmed this through multiple sources within North Korea and Chinese public security authorities. The 31 defectors were arrested by Chinese public security agents between Feb. 8 and 12, with most of them having immediate family members in South Korea. They also included elderly people and minors, including a five-year-old child.
Since Dong-A Ilbo reported their arrest and plight Feb. 14, their situation has become a symbol of the severity and urgency of the defectors` plight and a key target of the global campaign against their forced repatriation by China.
Ten North Korean escapees arrested in Shenyang on Feb. 8 are locked up in a jail run by the State Security Department in (North Korea`s) Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, a source on the North told Dong-A Thursday.
Another source also said, Other North Korean escapees who were detained in Yanji and other places (in China) have been repatriated and are undergoing questioning by the State Security Department in North Hamgyong Province.
Still another source said, With their repatriation, the bloody purges of those involved are going on in North Korea.
In addition to the escapees family members, those who helped them cross the border and their families are known to have all been arrested for interrogation by the security agency. Certain relatives of the escapees were said to have been apprehended when the defectors were detained in China, indicating that Chinese authorities gave to North Korea a list of escapees soon after their arrests in China.
According to a source well-versed in Chinese public security authorities, the 31 escapees are not on Chinas list of North Koreans to be sent back. This suggests that agents from the Norths State Security Department took them from China in person and brought them back to the North.
There is conflicting information over whether the North Koreans were repatriated. Certain sources say they were sent back in small groups from Feb. 24, but other sources say the 10 North Koreans who had been detained in Shenyang were repatriated Tuesday.
Chinas latest repatriation of defectors is an unprecedented tough measure compared to past actions. When arrested defectors attracted international attention in the past, Beijing waited for public opinion to abate while keeping them detained for up to six months before repatriating them.
This time, however, the 31 defectors were sent back just 15 days after their arrests though domestic and international public opinions opposing their repatriation peaked.