Noguchi May Face Hurry-Up Trial in China


The trial of Takayuki Noguchi, the Japanese aid worker arrested by China last December, will take place in early May, reports Yomiuri Shimbun, the leading Japanese newspaper, in a 2 May article by Hong Kong based reporter Yasuharu Seki.

Noguchi, who was working for our organization, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR), was arrested late last year for attempting to help two Japanese-born North Korean refugees escape from China (more details here).  

On April 5, the Chong Zuo People’s Prosecutors’ Office filed formal charges against Noguchi with Chong Zuo Intermediate People’s Court.

As we have shown repeatedly, the two Japanese-born North Koreans whom Noguchi went to China to help are obviously qualified as refugees; they will face harsh persecution if repatriated. Their status certainly meets the conditions specified by the Refugees Convention, to which China is signatory. Noguchi’s action in assisting the two refugees in no way constitutes illegal action.

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be notified of the exact date of the trial by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, Japan’s Foreign Ministry has consistently rejected this organization’s requests for minimal necessary information about the trial, including its date. This refusal to allow us any access to information is wholly unjustifiable.

With no way to know the exact date of the trial, we fear that China may hold a de-facto closed-door trial with the tacit approval of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, while officially calling it an “open trial.”

To illustrate China’s practices, the trial of Mr. Chun Ki Won, a humanitarian aid worker from Durihana Mission in South Korea was announced on the morning of the trial day, and it took place that afternoon in a remote location in Hailar, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. This is an example of a de-facto closed-door trial orchestrated to prevent anyone from observing the proceedings, although it might be technically termed an “open trial.”

The Yomiuri article refers to an earlier trip to China by Noguchi last summer.

Although the article revealed no details, during that trip Noguchi successfully aided an escape from China by several North Korean orphans and Japanese-born North Korean refugees who were born and raised in Japan but had later moved to North Korea. LFNKR has been providing protection and minimum education for these North Korean orphans under its foster parent program. In April 2002, seven orphans under our protection in China were captured by a joint team of the Chinese police and border guards. They were sent back to North Korea. Fortunately, by August, six out of the seven orphans managed to escape again to China, and our local network protected them. The seventh orphan, however, a 5-year-old girl, never made it back to China. We do not know if she is still alive.

LFNKR interviewed the children who managed to make their way back to our shelter. The eldest, who was 14 when repatriated, was accused of under-reporting his age, and the authorities sent him to the labor training center in Onsong, Hamgyong Bukto usually reserved for older prisoners. He was assigned to a road construction team every day while receiving only three spoonfuls of corn per meal. When our local network in China got him back, he had relatively fresh marks on his back indicating beatings with a shovel. He was skin and bones when retrieved, and was sent immediately to a hospital.

This incident prompted LFNKR’s decision to rescue its North Korean orphans from China, since it was obvious that the children could be captured and repatriated again at any time. The North Korean refugees and orphans had to move around frequently to escape the sweeps staged by the Chinese police. They also faced betrayal by neighbors wishing to collect bounty money.

LFNKR’s mission is humanitarian aid activities that give hope of survival to North Korean people who know they could die tomorrow. Our member, Noguchi, who faces trial now, had dedicated his life to humanitarian aid activities and had volunteered to accept the risk of rescuing the lives and futures of these orphans and Japanese-born North Korean refugees.

If the Chinese government claims that these humanitarian aid activities by Noguchi are “criminal,” it should open the trial to the entire world and show its definition of justice through the mass media of the international community.

LFNKR firmly believes that Noguchi’s act deserve admiration by people all around the world who know what humanitarianism and human rights really involve.

Kenkichi Nakadaira, Board Chairman