Cash reward incentivizes reporting of North Korean defectors in China

Choi Song Min  |  2016-08-10 17:02
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North Korean residents fleeing to China by way of the Tumen River face increased risk of arrest upon arrival, following tighter surveillance from Chinese public security agents and more active reporting by local residents, Daily NK has learned.

More defectors are being repatriated by [Chinese] public security agents after their journey across the Tumen River into Chinese territory, a source from North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Monday. Recently, Chinese border patrol units and public security officials have been carrying out joint patrols, tighter inspections, and searches, drastically reducing the potential for successful defection."

An increased incidence in reporting by local residents also plays a significant role, he added. Defectors are picked up by law enforcement in the border region before they manage to make it further afield after crossing the river, the source explained, citing a case from early August, when two women in their 30s crossed the Tumen River from Musan County and were picked up by Chinese public security forces on a tip from local residents. The women were immediately handed over to North Korean State Security Department officials. 

Local Chinese authorities have for some time been relatively wont to let defector-related matters slide, according to the source. But recently, she added, local governments are taking a harsher stance, perhaps because of pressure from the central government on account of perceived warmer ties with Pyongyang. 

According to multiple sources in China close to North Korean affairs, Chinese public announcements on "enhanced border security measures" are ubiquitous in border regions, promising up to 1,000 RMB for those who report illegal border crossings, residence, and employment of North Koreans. Those who personally capture and hand over North Koreans to the Chinese authorities stand to receive 2,000 RMB for their efforts. 

They have also outlined stronger punishments for local residents who enter verbal agreements with North Koreans to help them cross the river or smuggle goods, threatening fines of up to 3,000 RMB for transgressors. Moreover, Chinese border guards have been ordered to shoot North Korean defectors caught illegally entering the country if they resist arrest.

The measures have far-reaching implications. Chinese residents in the border region increasingly shy away from not only helping defectors but also engaging in illegal trade with the North. Some people are even reporting on others if they know them to be involved in these forbidden activities, an additional source in North Hamgyong Province.

Fanning an already fraught climate is a groundswell of anti-North Korean sentiment, fueled by a recent incident involving five North Korean border patrol guards, who, after crossing into China, robbed and assaulted villagers in the Changbai Korean Autonomous County in China. 

These acts of violence are said to have been on the rise, with many Chinese farms falling victim to brutalities and plundering at the hands of North Korean soldiers each year--another reason why many Chinese residents in the border towns, once sympathetic to the plight of North Korean defectors, are increasingly turning their backs on them. 

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee

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