China must apologize

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China must apologize

Kim Young-hwan, a South Korean human rights activist for North Koreans, has explained in graphic detail what he had to suffer while in detention by Chinese security authorities for nearly four months. It included sleep deprivation, electrical torture and beatings after exercising the right to remain silent after having been arrested on March 29. During his interrogation, he had to sleep on a chair - in handcuffs - for a month.

If that’s true, China’s brutal treatment of Kim cannot be pardoned. The inexorable torture of a foreigner makes us wonder if the country has any integrity as a state despite being a member of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The Chinese government still refuses to answer our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s request to confirm the details of the case. When Korean media demanded an answer, Beijing insisted no such thing had occurred - 10 days after Kim had exposed his torture to the public in a press conference after his repatriation on March 20. That strongly suggests that Beijing has decided to methodically deny Kim’s allegations as evidenced by its earlier refusal to comply with our government’s first request for confirmation.

Kim said that no physical evidence is left and all the scars have disappeared. But he still remembers the torturer’s face, and believes that his torture was approved by high officers as he had to wear a mask while undergoing blood pressure checkups and electrocardiogram tests. Considering all this, China committed an act defying international norms, which constitutes a typical case of its outmoded practices, hiding evidence and denying a crime.

Beijing must immediately launch an investigation into the case, make the results public and apologize. Otherwise, China’s shameful practices will continue considering the fact that as many as 800,000 Koreans reside in the country and about four million tourists visit there every year. Seoul must raise the issue with Beijing until it takes acceptable measures.

Kim was allowed to have an interview with a Korean diplomat 29 days after his arrest. But American or Japanese citizens can meet their consuls a day after arrests, significantly lowering the risk of human rights infringement. Korea must establish a diplomatic accord with China to prevent any recurrence of such a case.
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