SEOUL—Authorities in China raided two North Korean refugee safe houses near Beijing and arrested 65 people, according to the South Korean activist group Democracy Network Against North Korean Gulag.
“The Chinese side shows zero tolerance for these kinds of activities.”
About 30 Chinese security officers stormed two houses just east of Beijing on Oct. 26, following a series of bold break-ins at foreign missions in Beijing by North Koreans seeking asylum in South Korea.
Two South Korean activists, who are members of the group, were also among the 65 people arrested. The group also included 11 children and an elderly woman.
Spokesman Park Sang-hak told reporters the North Koreans were also waiting for their chance to break into a foreign mission to win passage to wealthy South Korea.
“The refugees were treated as if they were some kind of heinous criminals, but some of them were children,” activist Do Hee-youn said. Raids are becoming increasingly common at safe houses and inns where North Korean refugees are believed to be hiding, Do said.
Fourteen men, women, and children scaled the wall of the South Korean consulate in Beijing on Oct. 25, but 11 of them were caught by Chinese guards, one of whom was seen on television footage zapping the refugees with an electric cattle prod.
“The Chinese side shows zero tolerance for these kinds of activities,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said.
China still tries to block asylum attempts and has detained scores of people. Beijing is obligated by treaty with the North to send home fleeing North Koreans, although it isn't known to have done so in cases that become public.
In the biggest asylum bid to date, 44 North Koreans entered the Canadian Embassy in September by climbing over a spiked fence. They remain there still.
On Oct. 25, three people believed to be North Koreans entered a South Korean Consulate building in Beijing while others were detained. Dozens of other North Koreans already are in South Korean diplomatic offices.
One Beijing newspaper said police detained more than 60 “illegal immigrants” on Tuesday as they prepared to enter the South Korean Consulate.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency identified the two South Koreans as Kim Hong-kyoon, 41, and Lee Soo-chul, 47.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue meanwhile appealed to foreign embassies to stop giving refuge to North Koreans, saying they are economic migrants led by activists with “ulterior motives.''
Thousands of North Koreans fleeing famine and repression have been allowed to leave for the rival South over the last three years after seeking refuge in embassies and other foreign offices in China.