This is part one of a two-part series on human rights advocate Se Hoon Kim.
Se Hoon Kim, a graduate student, is a regular participant, as well as a coordinator of many conferences and seminars related to human rights abuses in China. He was confronted by a group of mainland Chinese students on the campus of the University of Rochester in New York State where one such event was held. This incident happened last September.
However, this incident, like others, did not deter Kim. He continued as before, holding similar activities that include inviting representatives of ethnic groups that are being persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in China. Kim genuinely believes that human rights in China are not only a matter for the Chinese people, but for all mankind. He believes that people living in a free society must speak up for the groups that are being persecuted by the CCP and this is a responsibility that he himself will not give up.
Se Hoon Kim is of South Korean heritage and he immigrated to the United States when he was a child. He now resides in New Jersey. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Rochester. Since Kim was a young boy and even before high school, he used to think that China was a great country with a long cultural history as told to him by his parents.
Not just that, he learned via the media of the rapidly developing modern cities like Beijing and Shanghai. At that time, he was longing to go to China to study and see what kind of system that could catapult an ancient country to rise so rapidly.
From then onwards until just before entering university, Kim often listened to the CCP media, singing its own praises. This made him think that China was on its way to becoming the next great country. Kim disclosed that due to his fascination with China, he learned the Chinese language.
Nevertheless, it took only one incidental encounter to change his impression of China. Kim was in Barnes & Noble Bookstore in New Jersey in 2012 to buy books about China. He was looking around in the store and there was a clerk sorting books on the shelves. All of a sudden, a book dropped out and fell in front of him. Kim picked up the book and saw that it was a book about China in the 1980s and 90s.
It was this book that began to change Kim’s perception of communist China. He got to know about the June 4 massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and started to realize that what he knew about China was only superficial and much that is happening inside China was unknown to him. From that time on, Kim continued to search on the Internet and media for the truth about the June 4 massacre and also accumulated more information on human rights abuses in China.
One day, Kim came across a program shown by NTDTV about two different incidents that took place in Tiananmen Square; one atrocity was of the communist army killing peaceful Chinese people, mostly students, on June 4 and the other atrocity was on the communist authorities violently arresting, this time not students but peaceful Falun Gong practitioners.
There was also an instance Kim experienced while walking on the street in Flushing, New York. There, he saw a woman handing out fliers telling her real-life experience of being persecuted by the CCP in China. Although the woman spoke broken English, she made him wonder: “What would I do if my parents, siblings, or grandparents were persecuted the way that the Falun Gong practitioners had undergone?”
All these facts and discoveries made Kim awaken to the reality that the China he once held in such high esteem was tarnished forever. After realizing the truth, Kim could only visualize the tragedies of so many Chinese people being persecuted by the CCP.
After completing his high school education, Kim entered the University of Rochester. There, on the campus, he met many mainland Chinese students. He found out that these Chinese students were just like him when he was younger.
All news and information about their home country were provided by the Chinese communist government, with stories, scenes, and images of China gathered from the censored Iternet and TV.
From then on, Kim began to make contact with Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Chinese Christians. He talked with them to learn about their true life experiences. At the same time, Kim shared with them how he wanted to work with them. Kim told them of his feelings: “All of you have been persecuted for decades and yet you all persisted. I feel ashamed and need to do something immediately to correct it!”
Kim expressed that although he was a student, he wanted to make his voice heard. He started to contact other students on the campus, gathered those who shared the same vision as him, set up organizations, and held various academic activities with one objective: discuss and delve into human rights issues in China.
Many students, lecturers, and academics came to listen to the talks. It was during these discussions where it was pointed out that the CCP’s propaganda machine is everywhere: Everyone is under the misconception that China is a great, rising country, on the move, so the world needed to see and hear about the real China, where human and natural rights abuses are grossly extreme.
Those who attended the talks were urged to understand the actual situation before drawing conclusions. It was also pointed out that as students, their focus was to study objectively, and with the privilege of academic freedom, do their own research as much as possible so as to draw factual conclusions.
It was on November 6, 2014, that Kim co-ordinated the first seminar on Tibet and invited the representatives of Tibetans in exile. The response was diverse; some welcomed it while some were concerned. After the seminar, Kim told the media that it is good for everyone to participate.
Subsequently, Kim held seminars on human rights issues in China every academic year. Media such as Voice of America and Radio Free Asia came to interview him. However, among the mainland Chinese students, Kim became unpopular. Prior to each and every event on human rights, Kim regularly met with obstructionist tactics from the Chinese Students Association; they either attempted to get the event canceled by the university authorities or they interfered directly.
Part two of the series on human rights advocate Se Hoon Kim can be found here.
Translated by Chua BC and edited by Michael Segarty