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Tuesday, October 26, 2004


Beijing uses electric prods against asylum seekers

Back in 2001, anticipating the selection of Beijing as the host city for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, the PRC central government established new anti-riot squads to "develop a more effective and non-lethal method" of countering growing demonstrations and protests and to avoid "escalating conflicts by inappropriate measures," according to a Chinese public security official cited then by the Xinhua News Agency.

Apart from changing the uniforms of Beijing's police from military green to blue, however, the efforts do not seem to have developed a softer stance.

This week prominent Korea watcher, The Marmot's Hole, describes the use of electric cattle prods by Beijing public security officers to prevent a group of 18 North Korean asylum seekers, largely women and children, from making it into the grounds of the South Korean (ROK) embassy.

Sometime early morning on the 25th of October a group of 18 North Koreans attempted to enter the South Korean consulate building inside the Embassy compound ... They then scaled a wall/fence to enter the compound and made for the consulate building.

On the film you can see it was a hard scrabble, since they had no ladders or scaling equipment, and it appears that at least one of them cut their feet on the barbed wire. In the end 14 of them got inside, and another 4 were arrested or ran away from approaching Chinese security police.

It was at that moment that Chinese guards/police came at them, wielding truncheons and (sickeningly) electric cattle prods. Watch the footage if you dare. It’s awful. At one point a Chinese guard says ... “zap him, just zap that guy!”

Around this point (hard to tell exactly when without seeing the unedited footage), some of the North Koreans unfurled a South Korean flag and banged on the shut metal door of the consulate, demanding it be opened and crying out “We are North Korean defectors! Save us!”

According to a YTN report on the same story, “with the North Koreans running around trying to avoid the electric cattle prods and screaming, calling out “save us", while the children were crying loudly, it was a really miserable scene.” You can only imagine.

Somehow, three of the defectors - a woman in her 30s with her 9 year-old son and another woman in her twenties - managed to get into the building by pushing desparately on the shutter door. All the rest were taken away.
Update: PRC Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue has called on foreign embassies in Beijing to "refrain from providing refuge" to North Korean asylum-seekers, complaining that they are really "illegal migrants" led by activists with "ulterior motives."

Update: The Marmot's Hole finds breaking news that Beijing police on Tuesday raided a North Korean refugee shelter in Beijing and arrested 65 defectors gathered while preparing to seek asylum at a foreign embassy or school before making their way to South Korea.

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