Sunday, July 06, 2008

China Steps Up Arrests of North Korean Refugees, Defectors Say

Chinese authorities are intensifying the search for North Korean defectors hiding in the country, offering as much as triple the usual reward for information that leads to their capture, defectors said.

“In some regions, they're offering as much as 10,000 yuan ($1,457),” said Han Chang Kweon, chairman of the Association of North Korean Defectors Organization. ``It used to be around 3,000 yuan.''

Han, who escaped North Korea in 1992, said he is in touch with some of the estimated 300,000 North Korean defectors in China. North Koreans usually cross the 1,700-kilometer border with China and hide out before attempting to get to South Korea.

China is trying to reduce the number of refugees in the country ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, defectors say. Repeated calls to the Chinese Embassy in Seoul to enquire about the country's policy on North Korean defectors were not answered.

“China wants to hide their human rights problems before they hold their international event,'' said Tim Peters, head of Helping Hands Korea, a human rights group for North Korean refugees, based in Seoul. ``China cannot be given a free pass in its human-rights abuses.''


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