World / Asia-Pacific

China seeks repatriation of citizen held in South Korea

By Cheng Guangjin (China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-01 02:53

China on Friday urged South Korea to handle Liu Qiang's case in an impartial and proper way, as hearings proceed in that country on whether Liu should be extradited to Japan.

Liu, a Chinese citizen, served a 10-month jail term in Seoul after being convicted of throwing a homemade gasoline bomb at the Japanese embassy in Seoul in January to protest against Tokyo's refusal to apologize for its crimes during World War II.

He also faces charges in Tokyo for allegedly setting a small fire at Yasukuni Shrine, a symbol of Japan's wartime imperialism, in December 2011.

Liu, 38, is still being detained in South Korea after completing his 10-month prison term in November. According to South Korean law, anyone facing extradition should be in custody.

Both China and Japan have asked for Liu's extradition.

"China's stance on this case has been clear and consistent. China hopes and believes South Korea will handle the case impartially and appropriately," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei at a regular news conference.

Three hearings will be conducted before deciding whether Liu will be extradited to Japan, according to Global Times, a Beijing-based newspaper. The first hearing was held on Thursday and the second is scheduled for Dec 6.

Hong said the Chinese Foreign Ministry has paid a great deal of attention to the case, and the Chinese embassy in South Korea has sent consular officers to the hearings.

The embassy will provide necessary assistance to Liu, including attorneys, within the range of its responsibility, Hong said.

According to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency, the Chinese embassy has selected Shin & Kim, a famous South Korean law firm.

In May, Tokyo formally asked Seoul to hand Liu over for trial over his Yasukuni attack in accordance with a relevant treaty between the two countries. After that, Seoul also received an informal request from China to repatriate him.

Liu appealed for extradition to China, saying that he "will face very unfair or strict trials" if sent to Japan.

Japanese officials have said Liu faces a sentence of five years to life in prison if convicted.

"I tried to resist the anti-humanitarian acts by the Japanese militarists, not to pursue my own interest," Liu said during the hearing on Thursday.

"I did that for the dignity of the wartime sex slaves and the South Korean and Chinese people," said Liu.

Liu's South Korean maternal grandmother was forced to serve as one of the Japanese military's "comfort women" during World War II. His great-grandfather was tortured to death for his anti-Japan protests.

His lawyer also claimed that South Korea should deny the Japanese request, saying, "His status can be infringed by the Japanese authorities due to his political views."

The incident has created a diplomatic dispute between Tokyo and Beijing.

According to Korea Joongang Daily, during a meeting between South Korea's First Vice-Foreign Minister Ahn Ho-young and Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun on Monday in Beijing for their fifth strategic dialogue, Zhang asked Ahn to send Liu to China.

The newspaper said that even if the court decides to extradite Liu to Japan, the justice minister can reverse the decision and send him to China instead, based on national interest.

It will take about two months for the court to complete the hearings, and a decision on whether to send him to Japan is expected to be made in early or mid-January, it said.

Yonhap News Agency contributed to this story.

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