Seoul — Ten North Koreans including a four-year-old child have been detained in China, where they face being deported back to the North, two sources with direct knowledge told Reuters.
The group was trying to defect to South Korea, but were detained by Chinese police in the northeastern city of Shenyang in Liaoning province, according to the sources.
China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a news briefing on Tuesday she was unaware of details of the case. She said China consistently upholds the handling of such matters in accordance with domestic and international law and humanitarian principles.
One of the two sources said he was able to confirm the group was in Shenyang until Monday morning, "but they seem to have been transferred elsewhere since then". The man only wanted to be identified by his surname, Lee, because his wife and four-year-old son were among the detained 10.
"I told her to call again and was waiting and hoping she would find a safe place somewhere, but she never called me back," Lee said, adding the group consisted of seven women and three men. Lee’s wife and son met the rest of the group at a safe house in Shenyang, but lost contact on Saturday.
A second source with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed the detention and said China appeared to have intensified its crackdown on North Korean defectors in China.