China has already sent back several of the North Korean defectors who were recently arrested there, despite pleas from Seoul and international human rights groups, sources said Thursday.
The source said nine defectors who had crossed the Duman (or Tumen) River into China in early February were repatriated last weekend and have since been under investigation by security forces in Onsong, North Hamgyong Province. They were reportedly while traveling to Changchun from Yanji headed for South Korea.
It is unclear how many defectors are facing repatriation as there is wide discrepancy between sources. According to defectors' group North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, three defectors were arrested on a train bound for Changchun last Friday and repatriated on Monday.
"Security forces and senior party officials are intimidating and threatening their families. Rumors are spreading that they will be executed to set an example," the group added.
According to sources in China, about 200 defectors were caught by Chinese police and face repatriation.