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Kato disappears

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Kato interview

This NGO's Mr. Kato
Refutes China's Claims

November 11, 2002

Hiroshi Kato, one of the founding members of LFNKR.

Mr. Hiroshi Kato of this NGO was arrested recently in China and questioned about helping North Korean refugees. He was interrogated for 7 days before being released and returned to Japan.

Shortly after his release, the Chinese government issued a public statement on the matter, which contained some surprising accusations.

Below is Mr. Kato's response to those accusations.

For your reference, we also include China's original statement.

Hiroshi Kato's Response to China
-- October 10, 2002

I, Hiroshi Kato, refute China's allegations at the Foreign Ministry press conference of November 7.

It is a fact that, since June 2000, I organized the efforts of 12 North Korean citizens, members of three families, to flee to Japan or the Republic of Korea through a third country where they were approved for refugee status.

It was obvious that if these refugees were arrested in China and repatriated to North Korea, their lives would be in immediate danger. Therefore, those refugees were fully eligible for refugee status as is stipulated in the UN Convention relating to refugee status.

Although China has ratified the Convention, it fails to abide by the guidelines set forth and continues its merciless attitude towards refugees by cracking down on them. It is clearly agreed in the international community that international laws take precedence over national laws. However, the Chinese government still does not abide by this international agreement.

China deliberately gave the impression that I cooperated closely with some criminal organizations such as the Snakehead by stating "Collaboration with felon groups." This, however, is contrary to the truth. Our guides who helped the defectors cross the border joined the rescue activities simply because they sympathized with the refugees' tragic fate as fellow Korean people. As a result, they brought new lives and hope to the refugees.

Though China claims that the purpose of entry to China via Dalian in October 29th was "again in an attempt to organize more trespasses into foreign embassies or consulates," it is groundless. China's Security Bureau insists, "Kato has confessed to all the criminal indictments " but I steadfastly denied all their criminal indictments throughout the interrogations, and the Security Bureau has no evidence.

It is a fact that, when the 25 North Korean refugees ran into the Spanish embassy in Beijing, I, Hiroshi Kato, did give instructions to send out the asylum statement written by the 25 refugees to the mass media in Japan and around the world. China cannot, however, conclude from this single fact that all the instances in which refugees rushed into foreign compounds that followed this Beijing incident were also planned or carried out by me. If the Chinese government persists in its allegation, it is China's responsibility to prove their allegation is correct.

Though China accused me of "helping illegal entry," those 12 people of three families deserve full refugee status and protection. Only China asserts their illegality by its own criteria; and the Chinese criteria in this case deviate from international criteria. It is China's duty to abide by the international agreement. The point is that I helped those 12 people flee to a third country because their lives would be in danger if they were ever repatriated. It was an ethical cause that cannot be criticized.

"Kato, upon his return to Japan, denied all the crimes he had committed in China, claimed to have been maltreated during the interrogations, and accused China of failing to notify the Japanese embassy in China of his case ... Kato's accusations against the Chinese side are totally groundless," the spokesman charged. However, I never denied the possibility that I violated a Chinese law.

Also, during my interrogation from October 30th through November 5th, I was forced to sit, for six of those days, on a 40cm (15.7inch) square wooden chair with a fixed wooden bar close to my lap preventing me from standing or moving about. I was interrogated through the morning, afternoon, night and until next morning at 2 or 3 o'clock. One time, their interrogation continued until 4:30 the next morning.

Is this not torture? Even when you are sleeping, your right hand is cuffed to the chair leg, and you have to sleep while sitting up straight or leaning straight back. Most places in the international community, this is called torture.

On October 30th, when the Security Bureau declared my detention, I requested that the interrogators inform the Japanese consulate in Shenyang of my detention. The interrogators replied through an interpreter, "That will be properly processed according to Chinese law."

On November 2nd, when one of the afternoon interrogations was over, I again requested that they contact the Japanese consulate in Shenyang or the Japanese embassy in Beijing. But as before, the interrogators answered through an interpreter, "That will be properly processed according to Chinese law."

Furthermore, on November 4th, I made a request for the third time: "I was scheduled to return to Japan on November 1st, and my family must be worried. I would like to ask to make a phone call to my family or to Life Funds for North Korean Refugees, the organization I belong to. Otherwise, please inform the Japanese consulate or embassy in Beijing."

This time, I added the two new alternatives to my request. Thus, China claims, in contradiction to the true facts, that I did not request such notification.

If China insists that it notified the Japanese embassy immediately, does China intend to suggest that the Japanese embassy neglected its duty to protect its national? I invite China's explicit comment on this matter.

Submitted by
Hiroshi Kato
Secretary General
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees

China's Statement:

Kato's Criminal Activities 'Irrefutable', FM Spokesman

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said Thursday the criminal activities of Hiroshi Kato, a Japanese man who organized the illegal entry of DPRK citizens into China and foreign embassies, are "irrefutable" and his allegations of being "maltreated" in China are "groundless".

On Oct. 30, Chinese judiciary authorities detained Kato as the mastermind behind citizens of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) illegally entering China and trespassing into foreign embassies in the country, Kong said.

Since June 2000, Kato has, working in collaboration with felon groups, organized 12 DPRK citizens to illegally enter Japan or the Republic of Korea via China, and plotted the intrusion of these illegal immigrants into the Spanish embassy in China on March 14.

"Kato has confessed all the criminal indictments, saying that he was in China again in an attempt to organize more trespasses into foreign embassies or consulates," Kong said.

Kato's activities, the spokesman noted, had seriously disturbed China's entry and exit administrative order and public social security, jeopardized the safety of foreign embassies and consulates and thus violated clauses 318 and 290 of China's Criminal Law.

With the irrefutable evidence against him, Kato should have been severely punished, Kong said, noting that in view of his relatively good attitude in the confession of his crimes during interrogation, China dealt with him leniently and merely ordered him to leave the country before a set date.

However, Kato, upon his return to Japan, denied all the crimes he had committed in China, claimed to have been maltreated during the interrogations, and accused China of failing to notify the Japanese embassy in China of his case.

"Kato's accusations against the Chinese side are totally groundless, and China deeply regrets his behavior," Kong said.

According to Article 36, Section 2 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Kato himself was entitled to request the Chinese side to notify the Japanese embassy in China of his detainment, the spokesman said. Although Kato did not do so, the Chinese side still notified the Japanese embassy in China in accordance with the convention's specifications.

"China has recorded Kato's all criminal evidences and they are irrefutable. As to the so-called maltreatment, it is all the more a pure fabrication," the spokesman said.