Zhu Shanjan is a man who is ready for anything but not to return to North Korea.
He twice managed to do the almost impossible – the first time by fleeing the DPRK to China and the second time by escaping from a Chinese prison in Jilin Province, something that is considered extremely difficult.
Footage of Zhu’s escape slipped through social media and some media end of 2021.
With them came the news that the Chinese authorities had announced a reward of $ 15,600 for anyone who shared information about the fugitive’s whereabouts. The reward jumps to $ 23,400 if the data shared by citizens directly leads to the arrest of the North Korean.
A little later, however, Chinese censorship was activated and deleted all advertisements for a prize, so as not to discredit the reputation of the police and prison guards.
However, the spirit of the bottle has already been released and the recordings from the prison’s security cameras, which show Zhu’s dramatic escape, are circulating on social platforms. They show how the man managed to climb the canopy of one of the buildings in the prison yard, after which he managed to neutralize the electric fence with a rope or a rope-like object.
The prisoner then disappeared behind the high wall of Jilin Prison. Footage from external security cameras shows Zhu rolling over after the jump, lying on the ground for a few minutes and then managing to stand up and escape.
According to the Chinese court, the North Korean managed to penetrate China in 2013, when he crossed the border river Tumongjiang.
Documents state that Zhu was born in 1982 and worked as a miner in North Korea. He is lucky to have escaped alive from the DPRK regime after many were captured by Pyongyang’s border authorities and shot dead on the spot. However, Zhu failed to spend much time at large on Chinese soil.
The man reached the town of Tumen in Jilin province, where he committed a number of crimes – robbing several houses, from which he took clothes, sneakers, mobile phones and cash. In one of the houses, Zhu comes across an elderly woman who starts calling for help.
Before the Chinese court, the North Korean admits that he stabbed the woman in the back to get rid of her, but later the pensioner still survived.
A few hours later, he was arrested while trying to escape by taxi from Tumen. The court accused him not only of robbery and attempted premeditated murder, but also of illegal trafficking of migrants from the DPRK to China, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Since then, his sentence has been reduced twice – in 2017 and 2020, and both times – for good behavior and demonstration of remorse.
He himself prepared assassinations and developed drug trafficking networks
However, the reason for Zhu’s escape was not the terrible conditions in the Chinese prison, but the fact that after serving his sentence he had to be extradited back to North Korea.
In a number of countries, DPRK migrants are considered political refugees and granted asylum, but China is not among those countries. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), there are currently at least 450 North Koreans in Jilin prison who are about to be extradited as their sentences expire.
HRW told the Washington Post that Zhu should have been released in August 2023, but there was a good chance that his sentence would be reduced for the third time for good behavior. This is also the most probable reason for the man to take the spectacular escape from prison.
If captured and returned to the DPRK, Zhu will face authorities there, which strongly condemn fugitives from Kim Jong Un’s regime. Many of the captured refugees face violence and even sexual harassment in North Korean prisons and camps.
This is the reason why Zhu Shanzhan’s case has attracted so much attention on the Chinese Internet and among human rights defenders.
Dozens of users have appeared on the Chinese social network Weibo, who have declared themselves in defense of the North Korean, despite the crimes committed by him.
Lina Yon, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, also told the Washington Post that she was worried about the fate of Zhu and people like him. She explains that refugees extradited from China face extremely difficult working conditions in North Korea’s quarries and are subject to a number of tortures.
Meanwhile, the man is still unknown, and Chinese police are already touring the villages around the prison and asking door to door if anyone has seen him.