North Korean Defector is Recaptured Following a Daring Escape From Chinese Prison


According to Chinese authorities, a North Korean man who fled a Chinese prison and ran in freezing temperatures for 40 days has been captured. 

Authorities said that the 39-year old man, Zhu Xianjian, was taken into custody by Jilin police on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. the BBC reported.

The state-run Global Times posted a video of the arrest that showed footage of Xianjian being carried out by law enforcement looking frail and distraught. The publication wrote that he was believed to have been shot in the leg and was sent to the hospital for treatment, CNN reported.

The state-run Beijing News released a video of Xianjian’s daring exit plan on the night of Oct. 19 in the northeastern city of Jilin. Footage shows him climbing a prison shed and scaling its rooftop before he vaulted over the nearest electric fence to freedom. The video also showed prison guards attempting to chase him, according to the BBC.

Xianjian’s bold prison break even led to speculation online that he was a former member of the North Korean military, CNN reported.

State media reported that the video went viral, and attracted more than 800 million views on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.

To help generate interest in his capture, the authorities offered a reward that went from $23,000 to a staggering $100,000, more than 350 times the average monthly income of local residents, to help find Xianjian, the news outlet reported.

State media reported that during their manhunt, the police mistakenly arrested another man, who resembled Xianjian, CNN reported.

According to reports, Xianjian, swam across a river separating North Korea from China in 2013. According to Chinese court records, he robbed several houses in a nearby village stealing valuables and stabbed an elderly woman who discovered him before he was arrested by the authorities,The BBC reported. 

A year later he was arrested and sentenced to 11 years behind bars for illegal border crossing, larceny, and robbery, to be followed by his deportation, court documents reveal.

Xianjian had served nine years and had two years left of his sentence.

Although many North Korean defectors are considered refugees, China considers them illegal economic migrants. According to international law, China forces repatriation of these people under an agreement with its long-standing ally. The Washington Post reported. 

Lina Yoon is a Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch and spoke to The Washington Post. “in recent years Pyongyang had substantially increased the prison sentences of defectors who were forcibly repatriated. In addition to “backbreaking labor,” former defectors may be subject to torture and sexual violence,” she said.


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