Chinese police have released some 30 North Korean defectors who faced deportation around the time North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited Beijing, Radio Free Asia reported Monday.

Most of the 30 defectors, who were arrested in Shenyang and other cities last month, were freed in early April, according to a defector who has settled in South Korea.

An activist group working for human rights in North Korea also reported on their release.

The defector, Lee Tae-won, said Beijing freed them for fear of criticism from the international community because their arrest and possible deportation got a lot of international publicity from human rights groups.

The North Koreans were arrested in Shenyang, on a train bound for Kunming and in other locations over the span of a week late last month, when controls were tightened during Kim's visit on March 25-28.

China arrested at least 41 defectors between mid-January and March this year, and at least 33 were detained, according to Human Rights Watch.

The U.S. State Department last week expressed concerns over the arrest and repatriation of North Korean defectors in China, who face torture and prison camps when they are sent back.

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