March 17 (UPI) — China may have arrested as many as 14 North Korean defectors in the last two weeks, according to multiple sources.
An activist of an unidentified nationality who works with refugees told Yonhap news agency Friday that Chinese “traffic police” in the northeastern city of Shenyang detained seven defectors and one Chinese “broker” traveling in the same vehicle.
They were arrested after an “inspection,” the activist said.
The arrests come at a time when China introduced a new requirement for intercity bus travelers, who must now provide their real names and proof of identification in order to purchase tickets, according to the source.
The North Korean refugees were detained as they traveled in a small van and are at risk of being repatriated to their country of origin, the report stated.
A second source identified as a South Korean activist with a human rights group told Yonhap another group of three defectors was apprehended at the China-Laos border as they traveled in a private vehicle that may have been lent to them by South Korean missionaries.
The activist said checkpoints beyond the immediate vicinity of the China-North Korea border have been “strengthened,” posing challenges for North Koreans who are trying to reach safety without proper identification.
A third source, who represents a North Korea defector group, said Chinese authorities arrested four refugees, including a child, at a city motel in Tianjin.
“The police infiltrated their room, after tracking down their whereabouts, although it’s not clear how,” the source said.
In February, China may also have arrested two South Korean Christian pastors, according to Peter Jung, head of Justice for North Korea in Seoul.