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This NGO's Mr. Kato
Interrogated by China
* * * * *

November 8, 2002

Hiroshi Kato, one of the founding members of LFNKR.

REPORT #1:   Hiroshi Kato Demands Answers from the Chinese Government

Mr. Hiroshi Kato was released by Chinese authorities and returned to Japan on Nov. 6. At 2 PM today, Nov. 7, Mr. Kato visited the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to report all the details of his experience, beginning with his arrest by Chinese police on Oct. 30th, through Nov. 6 when Chinese officials released him.

During his debriefing with the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kato specifically requested that the Japanese government demand the following three answers from the Chinese government

(1) What were the charges against me?

When the Chinese police suddenly broke into my hotel room a little after midnight, I was not told any specific charge. They repeatedly asserted, "You know why you are being arrested. You have violated Chinese national law."

(2) Why was my money not returned to me by the Chinese police on Nov. 6 when they released me?

When the Chinese police arrested me, I had about 100,000 yen, 90,000 won, and 900 RMB in cash. Afterwards, I asked them to return my money, and they just ignored me.

(3) Why was my camera not returned when I was released on Nov. 6? Although I had taken no pictures, I still want my camera back.

Mr. Kato also requested that the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs pursue the following three matters

(1) Request that the Chinese government not repatriate the North Korean refugee, Mr. Kim Gun Nam. Mr. Kim, who was also arrested and detained by the Chinese police, was with Mr. Kato the day before Mr. Kato was captured. If Mr. Kim is sent back to North Korea, he is certain to be charged with an extremely serious crime, and execution is a strong possibility.

(2) Make special arrangements for Mr. Kim Guang Il (no relation to the first Mr. Kim), one of our local staff members, who was taking care of our foster children.

When the Chinese police were interrogating Mr. Kato, the first thing they did was to seize all his notebooks and memos containing the names, phone numbers and contact procedures of all our local staff members, and lists of our shelters where the North Korean refugees and our foster children were hiding.

It is very likely that, by now, the Chinese police have captured most of these people.

Fortunately, we have received word that, as of Nov. 6, Mr. Kim Guang Il is still safe, and in hiding.

For this reason, Mr. Kato has asked the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make special arrangements to allow Mr. Kim to come to Japan until the danger is past of being arrested by the Chinese police or seized by North Korean agents operating clandestinely in China.

In addition, Mr. Kato requested that the Japanese Ministry give special consideration to the 7 foster children who, as of today, are safe, though hiding in fear. The NGO, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees, is considering an international campaign to recruit foster parents for the seven North Korean refugees as soon as possible. Until we find such foster parents, we ask that the Japanese government take immediate and positive action to secure the protection of these children.

Mr. Kato also strongly requested that the Japanese government help get China to release the Korean activists. We know that China is still detaining them.

REPORT # 2:   Mr. Kato's Interrogation by Chinese Police

A little after midnight, early on October 30th, five Security Bureau policemen, using a master key, charged into Kato's hotel room without warning. The room lights were off, so he was disoriented at first.

They suddenly switched on the lights and told him, "We are the Security Bureau. You know why you are being arrested. Get dressed immediately."

As they were putting him into a police car, they snatched his bag. When Kato tried to get it back, they hit him on the head. Then they put a white cloth sack over his head so he was unable to see where they were going. After a relatively short ride, they reached their destination and removed the sack from his head. Kato noted that the place looked like a Security Bureau facility.

Later that morning they prepared arrest papers citing violation of laws. They demanded Kato's reasons for entering China. He told them he came to supply food and winter clothes to refugees. They accused him of lying.

Shortly after noon, they moved him from Dalien to Changchun, where he was taken to an interrogation room on the second floor of an official building.

In the interrogation room, three interrogators sat facing Kato. He was placed in a wooden chair with a fixed wooden bar close to his lap preventing him from standing or moving about.

He was unbolted only for occasional bathroom breaks, and to sleep. However, when sleeping, he had to remain seated in the chair, which measured only about 40cm (under 16 inches) square. The bar was removed, but his right hand was cuffed to the chair, and the chain was so short he could not turn sideways to relax. He could only sit up straight or lean straight back.

The first day's interrogation continued until 4:30 AM. When he appeared to be dozing off, they stood him up under bright overhead lights.

On the second and third days, interrogation started about 9 or 10 AM and lasted until about 3 AM the next morning.

The interrogators seized upon any slight inconsistency in Kato's answers, and accused him of lying. He tried to explain that under the exhausting conditions, it was understandable to have slight inconsistencies sometimes.

They repeatedly accused him of having "a bad attitude toward the Chinese government."

Even asking them to explain the meaning of a question was met with more accusations. He was called "rebellious toward China."

Throughout his ordeal, Kato says, the interrogators seemed convinced that he was in China to organize more instances of North Korean refugees seeking protection in foreign compounds.

Since his answers did not satisfy them, they threatened him. "You know that we work very closely with the North Korean authorities. If you do not cooperate with us, we can hand you over to them, and there will be no evidence that it ever happened."

While in custody, Kato three times asked the Chinese police to allow him a phone call to the Japanese consulate or embassy, his own NGO people, or his family. They told him each time, "That will be properly processed according to Chinese law.

He was shocked to learn that they had incredibly detailed information on him, his NGO, and on other NGO people working in this field.

Unknown to Kato, the members of LFNKR had been persistently contacting the Japanese Foreign Ministry, asking for help in locating him. The Foreign Ministry continued to tell us that the Chinese government was checking into it, but that no Japanese activist had turned up.

The international press was starting to run stories about Kato, and finally, on Nov. 5th, at 3 PM, LFNKR held a press conference, which was attended by 80 journalists from 33 news organizations from all over the world. The press conference lasted 90 minutes, ending at 4:30 PM.

Suddenly, around 5 PM in China (about 90 minutes after our press conference ended), the Chinese police unexpectedly told Kato that "because of the Japan-China Friendship Agreement," they would "give him generous treatment." They went so far as to offer him beer and a large meal.

Nine hours later, at 3 AM, they drove him to an airport at Sheng Yang, where they placed him directly on an airplane. Kato was informed that he was being expelled and would not be permitted to re-enter China for five years.

It is clear that China DOES keep a close eye on the news media. And even when that country gives no apparent response to diplomatic approaches, it is highly sensitive to news stories exposing its strong tendency to skirt international rules of civilized behavior.

It may be useful to remember this lesson in future dealings with China.

Submitted by
Kenkichi Nakadaira
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees