10/25/2021, 12.30
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Jilin, North Korean defector escapes from prison to avoid deportation

by Lu Haitao

Zhu Xianjian was sentenced to 11 years in prison for robbing and stabbing a woman in 2013. The police are on his trail and have posted a bounty of more than 20,000 euros. In North Korea, the fugitive faces the death penalty.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - A North Korean prisoner has escaped from prison in Jilin, in the homonymous province bordering North Korea. On his head hangs an arrest warrant and a bounty of 150 thousand yuan (over 20 thousand euro). According to media reports, the fugitive is a deserter; before fleeing to China, he allegedly served in his country's Special Forces.

Identified by authorities as Zhu Xianjian, he escaped from prison on October 18 after his shift. Surveillance camera footage shows that Zhu climbed onto a roof and used something like a rope to damage the electric fence; he then climbed over the wall within minutes, all under the gaze of security officers (see video).

Police launched the hunt for Zhu by setting up checkpoints. The notice issued by the Police said that the man was "extremely dangerous". According to the court verdict that convicted him, Zhu crossed the border into China on July 21, 2013. When an elderly woman found him stealing from her home, the North Korean defector reacted by stabbing her. He also broke into two other homes to steal money, clothes, sneakers, cigarettes, and a cell phone.

Once captured, Zhu was sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison for illegal border crossing, theft and robbery. Court documents show that he received sentence reductions twice, for a total of 14 months. Authorities credited him with good behaviour in prison.

Thanks to the sentence reductions, Zhu was due to be released from prison in August 2023, and then deported to North Korea. Online comments say the main reason for his escape is deportation. North Korean defectors risk imprisonment in labour camps and even the death sentence.

Wang Jing, an activist from Jilin province, told Radio Free Asia that she shared detention in a provincial women's prison with several North Koreans. These women confessed to her that they were better off in a Chinese prison than in North Korea. Also according to Wang, as his release approached, Zhu was afraid of being deported back to his home country.


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