China Targets Immigrants in North Korea Border Region

Posted May 25th, 2012 at 2:40 am (UTC-5)
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Chinese state media say authorities have begun a crackdown against illegal immigration in a northeast border region with a large population of defectors from North Korea.

The China Daily said Friday the five-month campaign began last week in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, where North Koreans have long fled to escape political persecution and famine.

The paper quoted a local police official as saying the campaign will target foreigners who live and work illegally, saying they are “hidden troubles, and they might pose potential threats to social stability.”

The official also said the campaign will crack down on “illegal activities” by foreign NGOs and religious organizations, raising fears that many of the South Korean Christian missionary groups who assist North Korean refugees may be targetted.

News of the crackdown in Yanbian comes days after a similar campaign against illegal immigration got underway in the capital, Beijing.

Rights groups have cricitized China for deporting North Korean defectors, saying the refugees often face torture or execution if repatriated. Beijing considers the refugees illegal migrants who fled for economic reasons rather than because they faced political oppression.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans have defected to the South since famine crippled agricultural production in their homeland in the past decade. Most travel through China or escape the North by sea. Those reaching Chinese territory often do so with the help of activists, missionaries or smugglers.