China installs silent alarm system against NK defectors
China has set up a silent alarm system in every house in a town near the border with North Korea to try to arrest defectors, ethnic Koreans in China said Friday.
The crackdown came after North Korean defectors in China emerged as a high-profile issue in South Korea and the international community.
China has recently detained dozens of North Korean defectors and reportedly sent some back to their communist homeland where they could face harsh punishment, in defiance of international appeals.
The surveillance system is designed to allow local Chinese residents to secretly send a signal to police if North Koreans come to their houses to ask for help after crossing the border from the North, according to an ethnic Korean in China.
The ethnic Korean said he saw the device during a recent trip to his relative in the town in Yanbian, a Korean Autonomous Prefecture in northeastern China. The system also has a function that can transmit dialogue, such as between the owner of a house and North Korean defectors, he said, citing his relative.
Chinese police and border guards would dispatch personnel to the house to arrest the North Koreans on receipt of the alarm, he said.
A constant stream of North Koreans have crossed the porous border into China's northeastern areas to avoid chronic food shortages and harsh political oppression in recent decades. Some of those who do not have relatives or friends in China visit ordinary houses to seek help.
China's northeastern areas are home to about 2 million ethnic Koreans, descendants of Koreans who fled to China during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
The Chinese authorities plan to expand the silent alarm system into other areas bordering North Korea, an ethnic Korean military officer in Yanbian said. The two ethnic Koreans spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the issue's sensitivity.
Tens of thousands of North Korean defectors are believed to be hiding in China, hoping to travel to Thailand or other Southeast Asian countries before resettling in South Korea, home to more than 23,000 North Korean defectors.
China typically repatriates North Korean defectors caught in its territory as it considers them "economic migrants," and not refugees. (Yonhap)