Chinese public security authorities are reportedly carrying out surprise searches of homes of female North Korean defectors in China, as well as inspecting their mobile phones. In particular, multiple sources say Chinese law enforcement agents are even threatening the defectors, telling them they could be repatriated to the North if they are found to have contacted people in South or North Korea.

In a telephone conversation Daily NK on Monday, a source in China said in late September, public security agents barged into the homes of Chinese men living with North Korean women in Changbai, Jilin Province. The agents inspected and took down the women’s mobile phone records.

Another source in China said security agents in Heilongjiang Province were going around a certain village to check on the activities of North Korean women living there. He said the agents were carrying out sweeping investigations to get a handle on any “ideological problems.”

According to the sources, the authorities are conducting the investigations at the provincial level, not the city or county level. This means Chinese authorities greatly influenced the launch of the sweep.

Particularly interesting is that agents are making no effort to hide their intention to block possible connections with not only North Korea, but South Korea as well. That is to say, the authorities reportedly stressed that defectors who have continuously called North or South Korea should turn themselves in, and that they should confess if there are other North Korean women who made frequent calls to the countries.

A detention facility in Jilin Province. / Image: Daily NK

They have not shied away from threats, either, warning that women caught connecting to South or North Korea would be kicked out “without mercy.” Worth noting here is that they raised the possibility of being repatriated to the North.

This is because Chinese public security officials previously employed an inducement strategy with North Korean women, telling them they could remain where they were if they pledged to “stay with their families.” Now, they are suddenly employing threats.

That authorities are dredging through the past and present of North Korean women living with Chinese men after illegally crossing the border is extraordinary.

One source said the measure follows an order from the Chinese government to prevent illegal border crossings and human trafficking, which could potentially increase. There is the belief that the authorities are employing harsher threats against contact with North Korea to prevent their Chinese families from potentially “breaking apart.”

Locally, people are offering mixed responses.

Chinese families of men living with North Korean women believe the measure is preparing the ground to classify defector women as a vulnerable class in connection with Xi Jinping’s “common prosperity” drive. They believe the authorities are actively working to give defector women “identification cards,” including measures to prevent potential “incidents.”

However, sources say female defectors cannot hide their concern, believing the investigations are aimed at making them cut contact with their relatives and families and “putting them in another kind of prison.”

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