China should apologizeKim Young-hwan, one of four human rights advocates released last Friday after being held in China for 114 days, said he had been treated harshly by Chinese security authorities while under detention for almost four months. But the Chinese authorities didn’t explain why he had to undergo physical pressure, sleep deprivation and even forced labor for such a long time, according to Kim.
Though the activist stopped short of specifying details of torture, Kim suggested that he suffered physical beatings. Kim claimed that China persistently demanded that he admit to a violation of China’s domestic law in return for his repatriation and keep his mouth shut about the harsh treatment he received when returning to South Korea. If Kim’s accounts are true, it’s a serious problem as it constitutes a rare case in which one of our citizens directly suffered from Chinese authorities’ abuse of human rights.
It is widely known that the human rights situation in China lags far behind international standards. The Chinese government’s infringement on its citizens’ human rights is itself a big problem, but it is a bigger issue if the country attempts to apply the same standards to a Korean national.
Chinese fishermen resorted to violence - including murder - against our Coast Guard officers who tried to clamp down on their illegal fishing in our Exclusive Economic Zone in the Yellow Sea. And yet Beijing demanded a “civilized treatment” of them from our government. Compared to them, Kim says he didn’t do anything which would violate China’s domestic law. Beijing didn’t explain exactly what kind of crimes Kim had committed in China, yet it trampled on his human rights to an inexorable degree.
After Kim’s accusation against China, our government says it requested on several occasions that Beijing launch a fact-finding investigation into the case. But the Chinese government flatly denied his allegations. As his injuries from torture have disappeared, Beijing will hardly change its position on the matter.
It seems difficult to find effective ways to put pressure on China for the case. But our government must not approach the issue as if nothing had happened to Kim for 114 days under detention. The government must demand a truth-finding probe into the case and an official apology. Only then can the government put an end to China’s unfair treatment of our citizens.