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15 North Koreans Enter German Embassy in Beijing in Asylum Bid - 2002-09-03

At least 15 suspected North Korean refugees scrambled over a wall into a German government compound in Beijing in a bid for asylum Tuesday, in the second such incident in the Chinese capital this week.

A witness says the refugees huddled in a school run by the German embassy, which Chinese police quickly surrounded.

At least 80 North Koreans have escaped China this year by sprinting or bluffing their way past guards into diplomatic buildings and asking for political asylum and passage to South Korea.

These refugees are among tens of thousands of North Koreans who live illegally in China, after fleeing repression and starvation in their communist homeland.

Monday, another group of North Koreans failed to get asylum when they were intercepted by dozens of Chinese police as they rushed toward the Ecuadorian Embassy.

In Monday's incident, police chased, grabbed and dragged eight refugees, including some children out of the building and hauled them away. Four other North Koreans escaped.

A cameraman for German television, Jacek Komander and reporter Stefan Niemann rushed out of their nearby office to film the incident.

"We filmed for roughly 45 seconds maybe, and then a dozen plainclothes police saw us and attacked the two of us, especially the cameraman, trying to get hold of the camera," said Mr. Niemann. "After minutes of fighting and kicking he had to let go. Then they confiscated the camera for more than an hour, and then gave it back slightly damaged and without the tape."

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan says he is investigating the attack on the journalists. But he told reporters Tuesday he has not gotten answers yet from the relevant departments.