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Did China torture activist for defectors with electric shocks?

Did China torture activist for defectors with electric shocks?

Posted July. 28, 2012 01:09,   


South Korean human rights activist Kim Young-hwan might have been tortured while being detained in China with electric shocks because of North Korea.

Peter Chung, director of the South Korean human rights activist group Justice for North Korea who was detained in China for 18 months on the same charge with Kim, said of his experience, “(Chinese officials) didn`t let me sleep for more than three days and threatened me by making me hear the beating sound from the next room, but they didn`t beat me.”

Choi Young-hoon, another activist arrested in China while helping North Korean defectors in Shandong Province, said he was beaten up by Chinese inmates sharing the ame cell, while Chinese prison guards pretended not to see anything.

Considering the previous cases, Kim`s electric torture was unusually harsh for him, raising the possibility that Chinese investigators considered him the mastermind behind a movement to help North Koreans escape their country and fight for democracy in the North, thus resorting to excessive measures to wring information out of him.

Authorities forced him to make confessions not on only his activities in China but also on “everything he knew.”

China originally targeted another member of Kim’s company but focused the torture on Kim. There is no circumstantial evidence suggesting that Kim’s three colleagues were physically abused except Yoo Jae-gil, who was forced to sleep while sitting for nearly one month.

“There is the possibility that China didn`t know how important Kim was until North Korea’s State Security Department provided information on him belatedly,” a South Korean official said.

In a news conference Wednesday, Kim said, “China’s National Security Ministry officials didn`t even know much about who I was until three to four days after my arrest.”

If Kim’s investigation was conducted under cooperation between North Korea and China, Beijing was probably aware of his torture. The activist said the head of National Security Bureau’s office in Dandong, China, visited him in prison and told him that Chinese investigators had to torture Kim because of orders from their superiors to conduct a thorough investigation.

China’s public security authorities are said to be treating South and North Koreans differently from those from other countries. A human rights activist said Beijing categorizes Westerners such as Americans “A class,” Japanese “B,” South Koreans “C,” and North Koreans “D” and treat them in accordance with the category in all aspects including meals and the sizes of prison cells.

“Why would China treat South Koreans properly when South Korea’s Foreign Ministry is keeping a low profile before China,” the activist added.

The situation for defectors is much worse. According to the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, a South Korean group collecting information on the human rights situation for North Koreans, those who have escaped the North have experienced human rights violations in 2,606 cases at Chinese detention facilities since 2003.

Of the total, 174 cases involved physical violence and torture. By type, there were 125 cases of beatings and 25 cases of torture with electric shocks. Reports also said certain detainees were hanged from the air, threatened by animals, and suffered sexual abuse.

shcho@donga.com ramblas@donga.com