2nd Part of Boat-People Trial
China's Legal Tactics So Far Are Suspect
May 9 -- Letter to China's Ministry of Justice
LFNKR sent the following
letter by Express Mail Service to the Ministry of Justice of
the People's Republic of China on May 9.
We urge everyone to carefully watch the next session of this
proceeding so that the defendants will have a greater chance
of a fair trial.
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees
Ministry of Justice of People's Republic of China
Minister of Justice
In January this year, three humanitarian aid workers, Mr.
Choi Yong-hun (South Korean), Mr. Park Yong-ho (Korean
Chinese), Mr. Jo Yong-sun and photojournalist, Mr. Soek Jae-
hyun (South Korean) were arrested in Yantai city, Shandong
province, China for allegedly assisting North Koreans who
were attempting to leave China by boat. The first trial
connected with this Yantai Boat People Incident was held in
April 22 in Yantai City Development District.
An analysis of reports from observers attending this trial
reveals that China exhibits an outrageous lack in its sense
of justice. Further, the way the trial is being carried out
is seriously prejudicial to the defendants. In addition, the
trial itself presents material difficulties. Below are
problems observed at the first session of the trial.
First, the interpreter assigned by the Chinese authorities
is critically flawed. This female han Chinese interpreter
worked as interpreter for both sides, the prosecution and
the defense. It is glaringly obvious that fairness in the
trial cannot be preserved when using the same interpreter
for opposing sides.
Furthermore, this interpreter misinterpreted a basic word,
"nationality" as "international." Further, she was unable
even to differentiate between the past and present tense and
between passive and active voice. This is clear evidence
that the skill level and quality of her interpretation are
Another example came when the defendant was asked about the
participation of any Westerners in the planning of the
incident. The interpreter was unable to interpret the word
"Westerner." It appeared, in fact, that she did not even
understand the word nor have a concept of what a "Westerner"
The defense lawyer for Mr. Soek Jae-hyon was fortunately
fluent in both Chinese and Korean. Thus, he repeatedly
pointed out and corrected as many misinterpretations as
possible. However, to hold a trial related to this kind of
international case with such poor interpretation is highly
inappropriate and suggests that it is not possible to expect
a fair judgment.
Second, the defense lawyer for Mr. Choi Yong-hun also
presented problems. This lawyer was not appointed by either
Mr. Choi or his family. Further, he had not consulted before
the trial with either the defendant or his family about the
plea to be entered. Absent an effort to communicate with
either the defendant or the defendant's family, especially
since meetings between the defendant and his family are
prohibited, the lawyer will be unable to enter a fair plea.
Moreover, this defense lawyer does not even understand the
Korean language, which precludes his pointing out any
misinterpretations by the interpreter.
The defense lawyer for Mr. Choi can only depend on the
interpreter arranged by the prosecution, and this limitation
is causing grave fears among the defendant's family, who are
now expressing their intention to appoint a new defense
lawyer. This wish by the family must be heard.
It is our deep concern that such a trial will make it
impossible to secure a fair hearing for Mr. Choi Yong-hun,
Mr. Park Yong-ho, Mr. Soek Jae-hyon, and Mr. Jo Yong-sun who
were arrested at the same time on the same charges. In
addition, this trial is treating Mr. Jo Yong-sun as a person
of undecided nationality. This places the trial in a very
With all the above conditions considered, we are firmly
convinced that the credibility of this trial is questionable
and further that the defendants are not receiving a fair
The defendant, Mr. Choi Yong-hun states his thoughts on the
first pleading as follows: "All humans in the world are born
to be loved. North Korean refugees cross the border to China
to escape from hunger. There, they become targets for human
trafficking, or they are forced to steal simply to survive
in China. Meanwhile, Chinese authorities hunt them down. I
decided to assist these people, hoping to be of some help."
We are closely watching how the trial proceeds; we will
distribute the record of the trial via e-mail to the
international humanitarian organizations, NGOs, UNHCR,
Amnesty International and other organizations that have a
vested interest in the outcome of this trial.
It is our most sincere hope that the Chinese government and
judicial authorities will consider the nature of the Yantai
Boat People Incident and hold a fair trial in accordance
with international laws and the most basic humanitarian
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees