This NGO's Mr. Kato
Interrogated by China
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- 2 REPORTS -
November 8, 2002
Hiroshi Kato, one of the founding members of LFNKR.
REPORT #1: Hiroshi Kato Demands Answers from the Chinese
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
(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
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
(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
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
The first day's interrogation continued until 4:30 AM. When
he appeared to be dozing off, they stood him up under bright
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
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
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
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
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
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
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees