Kyung Yup Kim, a South Korean citizen with permanent residence in New Zealand, is accused by Chinese authorities of killing a woman in Shanghai in 2009, according to court documents.
Like many Western countries, including the US and the UK, New Zealand does not have an extradition treaty with China.
In a three-to-two decision, the New Zealand Supreme Court ruled that Kim’s extradition should proceed. The three judges said they had received sufficient guarantees from China and were “satisfied that there was no real risk that Mr. Kim would face an unfair trial.”
According to the ruling, the Chinese authorities assured the court that if extradited, Kim would have access to New Zealand consular officials, be tried and detained in Shanghai, and not be sent elsewhere in the country.
The court added that it was confident that China would keep its word, citing “the strength of the (Chinese) motivation to keep the assurances” and “the strength of the bilateral relationship between the two countries.”
Kim’s lawyers argued that the high-profile nature of the case and its sensitivity to Chinese authorities put him at high risk. In a ruling Wednesday, the court disagreed, saying he is a “routine criminal suspect” because he “does not belong to a minority group and is not a political prisoner.”
In a statement to CNN, Tony Ellis, Kim’s lead attorney, said Kim was “very disappointed with the verdict.”
Ellis said the team will fight extradition by filing a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee and seeking a new judicial review.
As grounds for objection, he cited the fact that the Supreme Court had ruled for more than two years, as well as Kim’s numerous health problems, including severe depression, a small brain tumor, and liver and kidney disease.
After China’s initial extradition request in 2011, Kim was held for five years before being released on bail under the same condition that he wore clothes. an ankle bracelet, making him the longest-serving extrajudicial detainee in New Zealand’s modern history, Ellis said.
Case against Kim
Kim has been living in New Zealand since she was 14, according to court documents. His mother is also a permanent resident of New Zealand, while his father, brother and two children are citizens.
Pieces of a quilt were found on her body, which Kim’s then-girlfriend identified as similar to those that belonged to him. When the police searched Kim’s apartment, they found samples that matched the waitress’s DNA.
According to police, Kim also told a contact in a telephone conversation that he may have beaten a sex worker to death.
Court documents say there is evidence that the waitress may have engaged in prostitution.
Kim denies the murder charges.
Following China’s initial extradition request, New Zealand courts ruled in 2013 that Kim could be handed over. and this decision was confirmed two years later by the Minister of Justice. However, Kim filed for judicial review and successfully challenged the decision.
After receiving further assurances from China of humane treatment of Kim, the minister decided in 2016 to recommend Kim’s extradition for the second time.
Kim once again appealed the decision, first unsuccessfully in the High Court and then successfully in the Court of Appeal in 2019.
The case was then referred to the Supreme Court for a final decision.
In China, the courts, prosecutors and police are controlled by the powerful Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China and its local branches.
China’s judiciary has a conviction rate of around 99%, according to legal watchers. Human rights activists say that unfair trials, torture and ill-treatment of prisoners are commonplace.