Friday, June 09, 2006

Humanitarian workers in Chinese jails

To give you an example of [humanitarian] "lawbeakers" that China has put in jail, Rev. Dong Shik Kim who disappeared on January 16, 2000, and Takayuki Noguchi who was seized on December 10, 2003.

Rev. Kim is a devout Christian who felt a special compassion for the handicapped, poor and oppressed because he had himself been handicapped after a car accident in 1986. Working in China since 1988, he became well aware of the suffering of the North Korean people and organized five shipments of humanitarian aid to North Korea. He and his wife helped North Korean athletes go to compete in the 1996 Olympic Games. He was helping shelter refugees in China when on January 16, 2000, he was visited by three men who told them they wanted to take him to see a North Korean refugee couple who needed help. He served the three men lunch, and then the three men took Rev. Kim away and he has not been seen since.

Takayuki Noguchi of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees was seized on December 10 with two Japanese born North Korean refugees. Noguchi is a 32-year-old humanitarian worker whose devotion to helping others led him to become involved in trying to rescue North Korean refugees. At the time he was caught, he was trying to help two Japanese born refugees return to Japan. Noguchi is in jail today being held by Chinese authorities for the crime of "illegally transporting people to cross the border."

China works aggressively with North Korean agents to catch and jail humanitarian workers. In fact, the North Korean government offered an incentive to catch Hiroshi Kato of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees: 440,000 yen and a brand new Mercedes Benz. Kato was in fact caught in November 2002, and jailed, but fortunately the Japanese government stood up for him and he was released after less than a week in detention.

[Excerpted from speech by Suzanne Scholte at Congressional-Executive Commission on China Issues Roundtable]

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