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Members of Japanese NGO
arrested, held in Shanghai

To all NGOs and other parties with an interest in human rights and refugee issues

August 12, 2003

Chinese security officers in Shanghai on August 8 reportedly arrested two members of a Japanese NGO, along with nine North Korean refugees they were allegedly attempting to help escape from China. Also arrested were two South Korean journalists whom the authorities charge with accompanying the group to document the event.

According to an announcement by The Society to Help Returnees to North Korea (HRNK), a Japanese NGO, the head of the organization, Professor Fumiaki Yamada, 54, of Japan, and NGO staff member Mr. Kim Kijyu, a South Korean national in his forties, were arrested together with two South Korean journalists and nine North Korean refugees. Shanghai security authorities on August 8 are reported to have arrested the group for allegedly organizing an illegal entry.

The incident came to light when it was reported by the Foreign Ministry of Japan, which has lodged an inquiry with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China.

Reports say that the nine North Korean refugees arrested in this incident are:
     2 males in their 30s: 2nd generation returnees
     1 female in her 30s: 2nd generation returnee
     1 female in her 30s: North Korean national
     2 children: (ages 7 and 1)
     1 female in her 20s: North Korean national
     2 returnees in their 40s

The group assembled in Shanghai on August 5, allegedly planning to dash into a facility affiliated with the Japanese consulate there, to seek asylum in the final destination of South Korea.

Although our organization, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR, a Japanese NGO), did not participate in the attempt, we share the same dedication to helping North Korean refugees, and we fully sympathize with their desperate gamble on such slender hopes.

Obviously, the incident is a direct result of the Chinese government's ongoing breach of international laws, including the 1951 Convention on Refugee Status and the 1967 Protocol on Refugee Status, of which China is a signatory nation.

The above international laws on refugee status have been clearly acknowledged as holding precedence over the Chinese domestic laws now being used to justify charging the members of this group with organizing an illegal entry.

From both humanitarian and international perspectives, we call on the Chinese authorities to immediately release the Japanese and the South Korean members of HRNK and the two South Korean journalists. Further, we demand that the Chinese authorities not repatriate the nine North Korean refugees to their country where they are sure to face severe punishment, including the possibility of the death penalty. We strongly urge China to release the refugees to South Korea, their intended destination.

LFNKR wishes to see the Chinese government accept these North Korean defectors as legal refugees without delay, and thus to regain the respect of the international community, who esteem true humanitarianism and the rightful respect of human rights.

Kenkichi Nakadaira
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees
A-101, 2-2-8 Nishikata, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0024
Tel/Fax 03-3815-8127

P.S. -- Please send your protest e-mail to:
Mr. Hu Jintao, President of China
c / o Mr. Wu Dawei
Ambassador of the People's Republic of China in Japan