As China is officially denying the use of torture against Kim Young Hwan, researcher for Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights (NKnet), it has been confirmed that other human rights activists in China were tortured.
Peter Jung, Director of Justice for North Korea, who was detained in Yanj prison from 2003 to 2004 for evacuating North Korean defectors to a third country from China told Dailly NK, “Not only did they deprive me of sleep but they did not allow me to see the sun for days and they beat the prisoner in the cell next to me so that I felt threatened, hoping the sounds of the other prisoner’s screams would get me to confess.”
Director Jung recalled, “Among my colleagues who worked with me, several were beaten with clubs by the guards and they encouraged the other Chinese prisoners to gang up on me and beat me up.”
He added, “Having heard about the torture against Kim Young Hwan, the degree of abuse seems to be the same level as the treatment of North Korea defectors” he commented, “It was shocking to hear about.”
An official from an anonymous North Korean defector relief organization in China explained, “Torture and forced detention against North Korean Human rights activists in China is very common,” The official stated, “When I heard that Kim Young Hwan was detained, I expected he would be severely tortured.”
Despite that human rights abuse of South Korean human rights activists in China has gone on for some time, the victims stayed silent due to both the South Korean government’s indifference and threats from Chinese public security authorities.
Director Jung pointed out, “Kim is not the first South Korean to be tortured by them,” continuing, “South Korean activists in China are afraid to say anything about the abuse because Chinese public security can take revenge.”
Kim Young Hwan, too, was threatened in China. Before returning home from Dandong, he was warned by the National Security Director, “not say anything about the torture. We are torturing more South Koreans here besides your group of people.”
Kim Sang Hun, Chair of the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, pointed out that the South Korean government did not take measures in regards to the violations of human rights activists, under the excuse of ‘quiet diplomacy’ with China.
Chairperson Kim asserted, “If those alleged violations occurred, immediate and strong measures should be taken by summoning the Chinese Embassy officials in South Korea, or by paying visits to the Chinese Foreign Ministry or to the South Korean embassy in China.”
He emphasized, “We deserve an apology and compensation for each case, as well as an apology from the Chinese authorities that such violation will not occur in the future."
The South Korean government has not once protested properly to the Chinese public security officials and so it is likely that Chinese authorities can perpetrate these human rights violations without fear of reprisal.
Jae Sung Ho, Professor at Chung Ang University, said, “The best way to prevent recurrence is for the South Korean government to meet and negotiate with Chinese officials, because it would put diplomatic pressure on the Chinese.”
He added, “NGOs in China must remind China of their presence; that they are human rights advocates on the UN Human Rights Council, and the international community should continue to pressure them.”
Jae continued, “Especially with issues regarding torture, we need to seek cooperation from the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and we must present the need to extract a promise from China before the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.”