Korean citizen and New Zealand resident Kyung Kim is accused of killing a woman while on holiday in Shanghai in 2009. In the first case of its kind between the two countries, China’s government requested he be extradited in 2011.
Kim, who moved to New Zealand at 14, denies the charge and has repeatedly challenged the extradition, raising concerns about the risk of torture.
New Zealand’s previous justice minister twice approved the extradition after diplomatic assurances Kim would not be tortured or face the death penalty.
However, the country’s penultimate judicial body, the Court of Appeal, on June 11 released a ruling again quashing the government’s decision and ordering it again be reconsidered.
“New Zealand has obligations under international law to refuse to return a person to a jurisdiction in which they will be at substantial risk of torture or where they will not receive a fair trial,” Justice Helen Winkelmann said.
The court ruled current justice minister, Andrew Little, would this time have to take into account other evidence about whether Kim was at risk of torture and whether he would get a fair trial.
“In assessing the effectiveness of the assurances to address the risk of torture, the minister must address such evidence as there is that torture is already against the law (in China), yet persists and the evidence is that practice of torture in the PRC (People’s Republic of China) is concealed,” the 100-page judgment said.
Little was unavailable to comment on Tuesday.
Kim’s lawyer, Tony Ellis, said the decision was of “profound human rights importance, which will resonate throughout the Common Law world.”
“It is not just important in New Zealand,” Ellis said in a statement.
Kim is accused of the murder of 20-year-old prostitute Pei Yun Chen after her beaten body was found wrapped in black cloth in a Shanghai wasteland in 2009. He has been on bail since 2016.
The case comes as China tries to gain international support for extraditions. It has been met with resistance from Western powers, who have cited concerns about its human rights record.
In Hong Kong, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets over the weekend to protest a legislative proposal that would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China.