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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 October, 2004, 06:09 GMT 07:09 UK
N Koreans arrested in Beijing
By Louisa Lim
BBC, Beijing

Chinese policeman outside South Korea's embassy in Beijing
China has tightened security around foreign missions
Reports say Chinese police have raided two safe houses in Beijing, arresting 60 North Korean refugees preparing to seek asylum.

The raid came as Beijing condemned an upsurge in large-scale asylum bids by North Koreans fleeing food shortages and repression in their homeland.

China's has vowed a zero tolerance approach to North Korean asylum seekers.

These raids could be the first indication of what that might mean.

A local newspaper said around 60 illegal immigrants were arrested east of Beijing, as well as two South Koreans.

The South Korean news agency Yonhap said the group was believed to be planning to enter a foreign mission, or school, in Beijing.

In the latest of such attempts, 14 North Koreans on Monday tried to scale the walls of the South Korean consulate in Beijing, but 11 were stopped by Chinese guards, one of whom was filmed hitting them with an electric cattle prod.

In the past two months, more than 100 North Koreans have sought asylum in foreign missions and schools in Beijing.

They are now waiting to be given safe passage to South Korea.

Beijing has called such attempts "serious violations of Chinese law".

It has urged foreign embassies to stop providing refuge to North Koreans, whom it sees as illegal immigrants.

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