China charges North escapee abettor

Kyodo

Chinese prosecutors have indicted a member of a Japanese nongovernmental organization who was detained for helping to smuggle two North Koreans into China, according to the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.

Prosecutors of the Guangxi Autonomous Region in southwest China on Monday indicted Takayuki Noguchi, 32, of the Life Funds for North Korean Refugees, charging him with assisting in smuggling people out of the country in December so they could flee to Vietnam, according to the embassy.

It is the first such indictment against a Japanese helping North Koreans flee from their homeland via China. A local court is expected to render a ruling within 1 1/2 months.

Under the Chinese criminal code, helping to smuggle people out of the country generally carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, but in serious cases up to 10 years. Local sources say it is highly likely Noguchi will be convicted and imprisoned.

China has apparently taken stern action out of consideration for North Korea, which has been condemning citizens’ groups that are helping its people flee via China.

In early December, Noguchi was traveling south on a train with two North Koreans and a Chinese translator in northeastern China. He was taken into custody by local authorities in Nanning, the capital of the Guangxi Autonomous Region, near the border with Vietnam, on Dec. 10. He was formally arrested in January for assisting in the smuggling. He is being held in a prison in the region.