UN alarmed by reprisals against Chinese activists

October 16, 2013

A group of United Nations experts has expressed serious concern at reports that Chinese human rights defenders have suffered reprisals for seeking to participate in a major UN human rights assessment of China. As reported earlier in this blog, Chinese HRDs have been reportedly threatened, arrested or banned from taking part in demonstrations or stopped from leaving China in the run-up to this month’s second review of its human rights record by the UN Human Rights Council through its universal periodic review mechanism [UPR]. The review will take place on 22 October 2013 in Geneva. “Intimidating civil society members who seek to contribute to such an important international dialogue is completely unacceptable,” the experts said. “Ensuring the free participation of civil society actors, including human rights defenders, and other national stakeholders, in this process is crucial.” These cases are part of a pattern of increased harassment.

The experts refer to the cases of human rights defenders Cao Shunli and Chen Jianfang. It was also reported that Chinese civil society activists, who have been demonstrating since June to defend their right to participate and receive information on China’s report to the UPR, have been threatened by local authorities on various occasions. “These reports suggest there have been acts of reprisals against people who seek to cooperate with the UN,” said Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders Margaret Sekaggya. China accepted recommendations made during its first review in 2009 to strengthen its engagement with civil society to promote and protect human rights. The Chinese Government informed the UN experts that non-governmental organizations were consulted ahead of the UPR session and that the draft of the national report was available on its official website for comments. UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, said that even if some organizations had participated in the UPR preparations, “nothing can justify excluding legitimate voices through intimidation”. Maina Kai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, added: “Impeding people’s demands to participate in the UPR from peacefully demonstrating constitutes a breach of China’s international obligations to respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, one of the core rights to be enjoyed in a democracy.

via UN experts alarmed by reprisals against Chinese activists.

In the meantime Front LIne reported on 16 October that human rights defender Zhao Zhenjia is still in detention since his arrest on 9 June 2013 for “gathering a crowd to disturb social order.” He was formally charged on 16 July, and is being held in in Beijing. His ongoing pre-trial detention reportedly relates to his involvement in protests on 4 June 2013, around the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. At these protests, Zhao Zhenjia called for Chinese Communist Party officials to publicly disclose their assets.Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

Zhao Zhenjia was sentenced to death in 1972 for articles he had written criticising the extremes of the Cultural Revolution in China. This sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1978 before he was exonerated and released in 1982, after twelve years in prison. Since 2000, Zhao Zhenjia has been arrested and sent to ‘re-education through labour’ camps on three occasions for a total of six years. He also organised the rescue of three petitioners from Hunan province from a ‘black jail’ (an extralegal detention centre run by Chinese security forces) in Beijing, inviting reporters and exposing it as an illegal holding centre. Zhao Zhenjia had been released from this third period of re-education through labour only sixteen days previous to being detained again on 9 June 2013.

In addition to these activities, Zhao Zhenjia was active in the peaceful campaign to free fellow human rights defender Mr Chen Guangcheng from house arrest between 2010 and 2012. Zhao Zhenjia was one of many human rights defenders who was beaten up by guards after attempting to visit Chen Guangcheng in his home town.

5 Responses to “UN alarmed by reprisals against Chinese activists”

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