Hong Kong lawmaker to help expat missionary detained in North Korea

Dennis Kwok will approach Pyongyang's consul in Hong Kong over case of detained expat

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 February, 2014, 5:11am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 February, 2014, 5:11am

A lawmaker plans to seek a meeting with the North Korean consul in Hong Kong in an effort to help a 75-year-old Australian expat missionary based in the city who has not been heard from since being questioned while on a tour of the nation last week.

"This is no different than with dissidents [on the mainland]," said Dennis Kwok, 35, who represents the legal sector and is a member of the Civic Party. "It's a human rights issue."

He said it was unlikely the Hong Kong government would help, as John Short is not a permanent resident, despite having lived in the city for 50 years.

But Kwok argued that the city's officials should step in. "He's been in Hong Kong longer than I have," he said.

While Short has yet to be formally charged, his wife, Karen, 57, said she believed he was being held because he was carrying pamphlets with the intent to "bring light to dark places".

Kenneth Bae, a South Korean-born American missionary, is serving 15 years' hard labour in jail after being convicted of planning to overthrow the North Korean government.

Kwok, a Christian, has provided legal assistance to dissidents on the mainland - including Christians persecuted for their beliefs and the lawyer Xu Zhiyong , one of the founders of a movement calling for transparent and constitutional rule who was taken into police custody in July last year.

"I don't know what I'll be able to do, but I'd like to try," said Kwok, who has not dealt with North Korea before.

"I'll think about it," said Karen Short after hearing of Kwok's invitation to join him in a meeting with the consul. "I'm not sure what it'll do."

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was working with Swedish officials in Pyongyang to try to confirm John Short's well-being.