Sending suspect to China could cost New Zealand millions

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Sending a murder suspect to face trial in China could cost New Zealand taxpayers millions of dollars as officials would have to send an additional diplomat to Shanghai to monitor his treatment, documents obtained exclusively by The Associated show. press.

But the documents also show that New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta is confident that the Chinese authorities will not torture the suspect or give him an unfair trial because of the bad publicity it would bring to the communist government. , in what would amount to a test case that would be closely watched worldwide.

New Zealand’s Supreme Court ruled in April that Kyung Yup Kim could be extradited to China in a landmark verdict that goes against a trend initiated by most democratic countries, which have blocked renditions to China over concerns that detainees are often tortured to make confessions. Don’t get fair paths and face unnecessary hardships if found guilty and incarcerated.

After the 3-2 court ruling, Justice Minister Kiri Allan will decide whether to send Kim to China. In a statement to the AP, Allan said she is first seeking legal advice about a complaint from Kim’s lawyers to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

In documents obtained by the AP through New Zealand’s public records laws, State and Trade Ministry officials outlined the potential costs of sending Kim to China.

They estimate that Kim, if convicted, would likely spend more than a decade in prison and that if New Zealand officials were able to visit him every two days during his trial and every 15 days afterward, there would be “long-term implications for the resources”.

They say they will have to send an additional senior consular officer to Shanghai to keep an eye on Kim, estimating the cost for the first year at New Zealand dollars 377,000 ($234,000), which would cover both moving costs and a salary.

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“After the investigation and trial phase, and if Mr Kim is convicted, the secondment of a senior consular officer may need to be made permanent to meet expectations around surveillance,” one official wrote in an email.

China’s foreign ministry said in a written response to the AP that it was not aware of New Zealand’s plans to send anyone to Shanghai on the case.

The two countries have been collaborating on the case for more than 10 years based on the facts and the law, and the extradition of Kim to face charges would “return the victim and prosecute criminally,” according to the Chinese response.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Mahuta tried to reassure former Justice Minister Kris Faafoi that China would keep its promise to treat Kim fairly.

In a letter to Faafoi in October, Mahuta wrote that it was her “clear view that China will uphold the guarantees,” despite concerns she expressed about the human rights situation in the Xinjiang region, the “regressive” national security law enacted in Hong Kong. , and China’s three-year detention of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig on “false charges”.

“This will be a test case for China – one that the international community is watching closely,” Mahuta wrote in her letter to Faafoi.

“This means that China’s incentives to abide by the guarantees are strong. If China does not honor the guarantees, we could make that information public, which would seriously jeopardize China’s law enforcement cooperation with many countries and harm its wider interests,” Mahuta wrote.

Faafoi wrote back to Mahuta the following month, saying he continued to find Kim’s case “difficult and balanced” and added letters from three advocacy groups opposing the extradition.

Mahuta wrote back that concerns about the human rights situation in China were well known.

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“Mr. Kim’s case is not a political one – his case has no connection whatsoever with Xinjiang or Hong Kong, nor is he at risk of being used as leverage for arbitrary detention for the reasons set out in my October 6 letter. explained,” Mahuta wrote back.

But she also covered up, saying her role was limited to giving advice on whether New Zealand could rely on China’s guarantees.

“Whether New Zealand should rely on those guarantees is a matter for you as justice minister,” she wrote, emphasizing the word “should”.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s response said China’s legal system can fully protect the legal rights of the accused and hundreds of suspects have been extradited from countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

“This fully demonstrates international society’s confidence in the Chinese justice system,” it said.

In an interview, Kim’s lawyer, Tony Ellis, said there was little point in New Zealand trying to say his client would be treated fairly in China, but he also saw the need to place an expensive “nanny” to to be sure.

Ellis said it would be impossible for a counselor to adequately monitor his client’s treatment because, for example, Kim could unknowingly be given drugs to make him confess or be forced to deny that torture was taking place.

Ellis said Kim was unable to travel to China due to numerous medical problems he suffered from, including severe depression, a small brain tumor and liver and kidney disease.

The case has dragged on in New Zealand for 11 years, which Ellis says amounts to a kind of torture for his client.

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Kim was first arrested in 2011 after China requested his extradition on a charge of intentional manslaughter.

He spent more than five years in prisons in New Zealand and spent a further three years on electronic surveillance, making him the longest serving prisoner not to have undergone a trial in modern New Zealand.

According to court documents, Kim is a South Korean citizen who moved to New Zealand with his family more than 30 years ago when he was 14.

He is accused of murdering a 20-year-old waitress and sex worker, Chen Peiyun, in Shanghai after traveling to the city to visit another woman who was his girlfriend at the time.

Chen was found in a wasteland in Shanghai on New Year’s Eve 2009. An autopsy concluded that she had been strangled and that she had also been struck on the head with a blunt object.

Chinese police say they have forensic and circumstantial evidence linking Kim to the crime, including a quilt found with the body. Police say a distraught Kim told an acquaintance that he “beat a prostitute to death”.

Kim says he’s innocent. Ellis said his defense case would be that his former girlfriend, who has connections to the Communist Party, is responsible for the crime.


Associated Press writer Ken Moritsugu in Beijing contributed to this report.

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