North Koreans in China live in Fear of Repatriation including church members. Illegal migrants from North Korea hiding in northeastern China fear immediate and violent reprisals if they are repatriated, according to missionaries working with the community. While the ruling Chinese Communist Party relies on an army of citizens with red armbands to keep tabs on illegal immigrants and report them to the authorities.
It is stated that Pastors and missionaries offering outreach services to the migrants say they run an enormous risk living in China, because repatriation could result in immediate torture and death at the hands of guards on the other side of the bridge.
"Anyone who leaves the country by stealth is considered a traitor," Zhang told RFA.
"There are people wearing red armbands everywhere in the villages near the border," he said. "There is nowhere left to hide, because there are surveillance cameras and red armbands in every village in China, and they know when someone enters the village."
A Christian surnamed Li who is linked to a church in the border city of Dandong said Zhang's account is consistent with what he has heard from North Koreans.
"My friends there say that any North Koreans who are caught are repatriated," Li said. "They have the hook in their collarbone before they've even crossed the bridge."
"Being caught is a death sentence for them ... that's the situation right now," he said.
According to RFA, Zhang also stated that there is a North Korean child in a Dandong church who was adopted after both parents were caught by the authorities.
Zhang said there is a hidden network of missionaries who lend aid to North Koreans in China, but they are sworn to secrecy so as to protect the refugees they are helping.
"They have caught South Koreans before," Zhang said. "Some were sentenced in China and some were sent to North Korea. If they are Americans, they are sentenced in China."
"Anyone sent to North Korea will get a harsher punishment, and sometimes get used to making political deals with South Korea and the U.S., to release them in exchange for something."
Without a high level of security, it is very easy to get arrested. "Once you are caught, you can be punished for espionage."