China Rounds Up Defectors in Preparation for the Olympics

Changchun, China — With the Beijing Olympics ahead, the Chinese Communist Party have been targeting defectors in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, leaving the defector community in China greatly unsettled.

The police in Jilin have been inspecting foreigners’ identification in the Yanbian Prefecture since April in advance of the approaching Beijing Olympics torch relay, which arrived in Yanji on the 16th of this month. In this process, at least 100 defectors were hauled to the Chinese police, and more than 20 were arrested in Wangqing, Yanbian Prefecture on July 10th.

Chung Myung Sook (41, pseudonym), who came to Jilin after escaping arrest by the Chinese police while residing in Wangqing, said, “In Wangqing alone, eighteen women, two men, and even children were taken. Among the defectors who were arrested, the women had been living with Chinese spouses for at least several years, which were known to the police office holding jurisdiction.”

Chung relayed the situation, “Last March, when rumors began that inspections of border transgressors would be toughened up with the Beijing Olympics ahead, the defector women in the Wangqing area went to the police station themselves to verify this fact. They were told that “Married women will not be detained,” and additionally, “This inspection was not ordered by the neighborhood police station or the local governing party, but is headed by the Jilin Provincial Communist Party.”

She also added, “Upon visiting Yanij after escaping from Wangqing, the Chinese police officers at the toll gate stopped all cars and check up on suspicious persons one-by-one.”

The inspection of defectors has also been affecting North Korean travelers with passports on their way from visiting relatives.

According to an NGO source assisting defectors in the Yanbian Prefecture, the number of forced repatriations of North Korean travelers, who had come to China with passports to earn money under the pretext of visiting relatives, has been increasing.

Usually, North Korean travelers enter China after sacrificing at least 400~500 dollars on bribes and processing fees. After extending their visa up to a year, they attempt to earn money. However, after the protest movements for Tibet’s independence in March, the Chinese government entirely prohibited the extension of foreigners’ visas. As a result, some North Koreans decided to reside in China illegally.

The North Korean authorities have been issuing visas for up to two months in order for North Koreans who are visiting relatives to remain in China. China’s custom, until now, was to ordinarily issue three-month visitors’ visas and to extend the visas for up to one year if the traveler could secure a place of residence and employment.

The NGO source forecasted, “The targeted investigation of defectors will most likely continue until the end of the Olympics. In particular, the arrest of defectors during the Olympics in order to strengthen public security will be a frequent occurrence.”

In cities along the Tumen River border region and on the roads in Changbai region along the Amrok River, vehicle inspections and identification checks have been conducted by the Chinese Communist Party. In cities such as Yanji, Tumen, Longjing, and Huolong in the Yanbian Korea Autonomous Prefecture, Chinese police officers have been rounding-up defectors via door-to-door visits.