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Please Send This Letter to
China's Minister Of Justice

September 17, 2003

China Still Punishing Humanitarians

For your reference, the letter below was sent to NGOs, Olympic Committees heads, UNHCR Officers, journalists and WTO Headquarters.

We recently reported to you that the Japanese NGO members arrested in Shanghai in August for attempting to help North Korean refugees were released after only 3 weeks.

The following humanitarian aid workers, who were arrested by the Chinese authorities under the same law (Article 318 of the Chinese criminal code), are still being detained in China, some of them for over a year. We must again urge China to behave as a law-governed nation.

Please copy the letter below (clip between the dashed lines) and send it to the Chinese Minister of Justice:

Following the sample letter below, I have also included for your reference a copy of the petition letter sent by the wife of one of the detainees to the Minister of Justice in China.

-------------------BEGIN CLIP HERE----------------------

Ministry of Justice of People's Republic of China
Mr. Buzhang Fusen Zhang, Minister of Justice

Your Excellency,

I have learned that the seven humanitarian aid workers listed below were arrested for helping North Korean refugees in China, and are still being detained. Last month, China released the Japanese NGO members who were arrested under the same law (Article 318 of the Chinese criminal code), after holding them for 3 weeks. Please show the international society that the Ministry of Justice in China respects the fundamentals for a law-governed state by applying the same rules; please release the humanitarians and the journalist still being detained.

1. Rev. Choi Bong-il (Seized in Yenji, China on April 12, 2002)
2. Kim Hee-tae (seized in Changchun on Aug. 31, 2002)

The following five were seized on Jan. 18, 2003 in Yantai, and were sentenced on May 22, 2003

3. Choi Yong-hun (S. Korean; 5 years and 30,000RMB fine)
4. Seok Jae-hyun (S. Korean journalist; 2 years and 5,000RMB)
5. Park Yong-chol (NK national; 2 years and 5,000RMB)
6. Park Yong-ho (Korean Chinese; 3 years and 10,000RMB)
7. Kim Song-man (Korean Chinese; 1 year and 1,000RMB)

Sincerely yours,
(Your name)

Send to:

---------------------END OF CLIP HERE-------------------

For your reference, we are including below the letter sent to the Minister of Justice by the wife of Mr. Choi Yong-hun.

September 15, 2003
Ministry of Justice of People's Republic of China
Mr. Buzhang Fusen Zhang, Minister of Justice

Your Excellency,

I am Kim Bong-sun, the wife of Choi Yong-hun who was arrested by the Chinese authorities on January 18 in Yantai, China for helping North Korean refugees.

On April 22, the first trial was held at the Shandong Yantai Development Division intermediate court, from which a verdict was handed down on May 22. My husband was sentenced under Article 318 of the Chinese criminal code to 5 years in prison and fined 30,000 yuan. This is too severe for our family. We have two daughters, one in elementary school, the other in junior high school. Without their father, it will be extremely difficult to continue their education and to make a living.

My husband originally worked in the construction machinery business in China, and has frequently traveled between China and South Korea since 1998. In the course of his work, he learned of the hardships experienced by North Korean refugees hiding in China. Their lives are miserable beyond imagining, and he could not turn a blind eye to them. That is how my husband began helping them. The North Korean refugees come to China because they cannot survive in their homeland, but what waits them in China are human trafficking, labor exploitation without wages, and bitterly cold weather.

My husband also found that the North Korean refugees daily face the fear of being repatriated to their homeland, where they face concentration camps or even execution. This made him decide to help despairing North Korean refugees to survive even though he knew that doing so would put him at great risk. However, my husband's ability to rescue them was far less than what was needed. So when he learned that some South Korean people were planning to help the refugees out of China, my husband volunteered to join them. The North Korean refugees arrested in Yantai included families with small children. This pained my husband's heart the most, being also a father of two.

Why should my husband be arrested for trying to help those people in agony? Why should he receive such severe punishment; a 5-year prison sentence? Why should he have to suffer mentally and physically, shut up in Prison No. 2 in Yantai City where he cannot even communicate because of language differences? It has now been 8 months.

Why is he not allowed even a single visit from his family? And why do my two daughters and I have to endure such great pain? How can I possibly explain to our daughters why the punishment was so great, simply because my husband chose to help people asking for assistance, instead of ignoring them.

My husband has chronic illnesses and has been taking medications for asthma, diabetes and hypertension. Now he is reportedly in extremely bad condition, having been provided with none of the prescription drugs he needs.

After the verdict was handed down on May 22, an appeal was filed, hoping that a fair trial would be possible at a second (final) trial. We were bitterly disappointed, however, when his lawyer said that the second trial is very likely to end with written verdicts being handed to the defendants. This has deprived us of virtually our last hope.

So far, we have heard no specific date for the second trial, and we cannot hand my daughter's letters to her father since we are not allowed to visit him.

On April 22 when the first trial took place, I caught a glimpse of my husband at the court. His body was swollen, and his complexion was sickly. He was shivering from the cold. This sight broke my heart.

On May 22 when the verdict was rendered, my husband appeared in court looking so weak his body seemed to have shrunk by half. I could not hold back my tears when I saw him desperately trying to brace up his own sagging body.

Please immediately grant the release of my husband, so that we can regain our life together.

Mr. Yamada (the representative of a Japanese NGO) who attempted to help North Korean refugees to defect to South Korea by taking them into a Japanese facility in Shanghai on August 7 (4:00PM), 2003 was arrested by the Chinese authorities. I learned that Mr. Yamada was released after only three weeks, on August 28, and he returned to Japan.

I understand that Mr. Yamada was charged under Article 318 of the Chinese criminal code, the same law that was applied to my husband. Please explain why my sick husband is still being detained, suffering severe punishment without even the chance of a visit by his family who wishes to hand him necessary medications? He has been detained for 8 months now.

It is utterly basic for a law-governed state to apply established laws to everyone equally. If a state fails to observe this basic precept, then the state is not qualified as a law-governed nation.

China signed the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees protocol in 1967 and 1982. The formal report submitted by the Chinese government to the United Nations clearly stated that the international agreement on human rights issue does not conflict with Chinese domestic laws. China agreed that it is obliged to fulfill the duty defined by the agreement. China also specifically stated that if any domestic laws should conflict with the international agreement, then priority is to be given to the international agreement.

The fairness and dignity of the Chinese administration of justice must be protected.

Also, I sincerely hope that people will again come to admire your country as one that respects human rights and as being one well qualified to host the 2008 Olympic Games.

For this important reason, I strongly urge you to decide in favor of releasing my husband according to the standards of international law. I am desperately eager to see the happy faces of our two daughters being reunited with their father.

Sincerely yours,
Kim Bong-sun, wife of Choi Yong-hun

cc: President Hu Jintao