Posts Tagged ‘Chen Guangcheng’

Li Wenzu – wife of Wang Quanzhang – wins 2018 Edelstam award

December 5, 2018

On 27 November, 2018 Li Wenzu, Chinese ‘709’ campaigner won the Edelstam human rights award [see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/edelstam-prize]

Li is barred from leaving the country, so at Tuesday night’s ceremony, the organisers could only air a recorded video message from Li and present the award on Li’s behalf to Yuan Weijing, wife of the exiled and blind Chinese legal campaigner Chen Guangcheng. It was the first time the Edelstam Prize, named after Swedish diplomat Harald Edelstam, was awarded to a Chinese person.
Li Wenzu is the wife of detained human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang. She was barred from  leaving China after her high-profile 170km march from Beijing to Tianjin in April, when she petitioned to visit the husband she has not seen since his arrest in the summer of 2015. Wang, now 42, was among the 300 lawyers and legal activists taken by the Chinese government during a crackdown that began on July 9, 2015. Critics said the campaign was an effort to silence China’s human rights defenders. In the aftermath of what became known as the “709” crackdown, Li and other spouses of detainees formed a support group and began campaigning for their release. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/29/the-remarkable-crackdown-on-lawyers-in-china-in-july-2015/]

When I heard the news of the award, I was nervous because I felt that in China there were so many people who worked hard for the 709 case, and their achievements were far greater than mine. Everything that I’ve done is just what I should do. I don’t deserve this award. So thanks to everyone for the encouragement and recognition,” Li said on Wednesday. “Every 709 family is now facing problems,” she said. “For example, the lawyers who have been released are still strictly controlled by the authorities. They are almost unable to work normally. Without income, family life is a big problem.

Second, the released lawyers need a long time to recover because of the torture, the physical and mental damage [they have suffered]. In the process, I think it was very important for lawyers to be reunited with their family members. Therefore, the 709 families and wives did not return to an easy life when their husbands came home,” she said.

Most of the 709 detainees were released, but several were jailed. Only Wang, who was charged with subverting state power in February 2017, remains behind bars in Tianjin awaiting trial. In her video message for the Edelstam ceremony, Li voiced her fears for her husband: “Only Wang Quanzhang remains in extended detention. I am really worried and afraid that he might never leave jail in his lifetime”. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/12/30/rsdl-chinas-legalization-of-disappearances/]

Caroline Edelstam, the founder and president of the Edelstam Foundation, said Li “has continued advocating, beyond her personal interest, for the principles of rule of law and democracy in China, and campaigned not only for her husband’s release but also for the freedom of all the victims of violations of human rights in China”.

Today was OXI Day in Greece: worth an award or two

October 29, 2015

The short video tells why Greece celebrates every 28 October “Oxi Day“. At 3:00 am on October 28, 1940, a representative of the Axis Forces arrived at the Greek Prime Minister’s residence and demanded Greece’s surrender. The Prime Minister replied with a single word: Oxi [No].

Within hours, the Axis forces descended on Greece, expecting it to quickly fall. But the Greek resistance forced Hitler to change his plans. News of Greece’s victory flooded the radio airwaves and covered the front pages of newspapers and magazines around the globe – no one expected such a small nation to derail the seemingly unstoppable Axis forces. Greece forced Hitler to change his timeline and delaying the attack on Russia. Greece’s actions inspired Winston Churchill to say “If there had not been the virtue and courage of the Greeks, we do not know which the outcome of World War II would have been.”

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China Update: human rights defenders suffer but Ukraine is not (yet) an example

February 26, 2014

On the heels of my post yesterday on Cao Shunli‘s health (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/serious-concern-for-health-of-detained-human-rights-defender-cao-shunli/), exiled, blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng laments that China is cracking down harder than ever on human rights defenders, but says (somewhat unrealistically I should add) that the leadership should brace for a Ukraine-style uprising. “It is possible for the Chinese to have a similar revolution to the one in Ukraine. It could happen any time,” Chen told Nina Larson of AFP on 25 February in Geneva. “There are many, so very man arrests“, mentioning just as an example the arrest late last month of the parents of human rights activist Xue Mingkai, who had spent four years in prison for joining a banned party. While in custody, the father, Xue Fushun, plunged to his death from a window several stories up, in what police said was a suicide.

Frontline Defenders informed us a bit earlier that on 29 January 2014, the verdicts were released in the trials of human rights defenders, Mr Yuan Dong and Ms Hou Xin, both of whom are affiliated with the New Citizens’ Movement and had been facing charges of “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order”. Yuan Dong was sentenced to 18 months in prison, whilst Hou Xin was found guilty but did not receive a sentence.  Yuan Dong and Hou Xin were originally detained, along with  Zhang Baocheng and Ma Xinli, on charges of “illegal assembly” on 31 March 2013 [http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/22993]  after banners with slogans such as “require officials to publicly disclose public assets” were allegedly unfurled during a rally in Xidan Cultural Plaza in Beijing’s Xicheng district. Hou Xin had only been photographically documenting the rally.

Besides the recent sentencing to four years imprisonment of one of the founders of the New Citizens’ Movement, Mr Xu Zhiyong, many more human rights defenders affiliated with the movement remain in detention (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/xu-zhiyongs-closing-statement-to-the-court-a-remarkable-document/)

On the other hand, on 25 February 2014 it was confirmed that Ilham Tohti (feared disappeared) has now been formally arrested on charges of  “splitting the country” and is being held in a detention centre in Xinjiang province. (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/has-uyghur-professor-ilham-tohti-disappeared-in-china/

For the full interview with Chen: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jLVlcgDJvTALGKEGE8kNJd3E43cA?docId=baf85933-271a-42b9-8e34-8210a195cbee

By the way China’s extraordinary sensitivity to ‘interference’ of any level into what it considers its domestic affairs is well-known. I touched upon this hot’ topic’ in my own 2011 article “The international human rights movement: not perfect, but a lot better than many governments think” in the book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’ (exceptionally also published in Chinese!): Yuwen Li (ed), Ashgate, 2011, pp 287-304 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4).

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Chen Guangcheng pressures EU to go more public human in China

May 20, 2013

Relatives of the blind human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng claim they are suffering a growing campaign of abuse, almost a year after he fled his home in China for the US.

(Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng Photo: AP)
On 19 May 2013 , reports for the Daily Telegraph from Brussels that the blind human rights lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, the exiled Chinese dissident has demanded that the European Union (EU) must go public with the results of human rights talks with China’s leaders, and publish its own list of people known to be suffering repression and persecution. Chen Guangcheng wants Western leaders to be more straightforward about their dealings with China so that the public can hold them to account: “The Chinese authorities try and pretend that they dont care about the highlighting of human right abuses but they do care. It is a responsibility to do this. If it is not pursued more actively the situation will go backwards.

via Chen Guangcheng pressures the EU on secret human rights talks with China – Telegraph.

Wished I was there when Chen Guangcheng embraced Christian Bale

November 17, 2012

Elisa Massimino, President and CEO of New York based Human Rights First describes the scene as follows:

It was the most striking moment of our annual Human Rights Dinner, one that was shown on TV and across the Internet: Chen Guangcheng, in tears, embracing actor Christian Bale. Last year when Chen was under house arrest in China, authorities rebuffed Bale when he tried to visit the “barefoot lawyer.” The two met for the first time—with a hug—when Bale presented Chen with our Human Rights Award.

What gave this moment its power was Chen’s story: his teaching himself the law so that he could help others; his courage in the face of repeated persecution; his heroic journey from house arrest to the American embassy.

His story is ongoing. We gave him the award—and he accepted it—to highlight the need to help public interest lawyers and other persecuted Chinese citizens. They include his nephew, Chen Kegui, who—after defending himself and his family when government thugs broke into their home—was charged with a crime and imprisoned. “This award,” Chen said in his speech, “for me and for my colleagues, is an example of the waves building and gathering power. Together, we are the rising tide of kindness, decency and respect for the rule of law.”

While the dinner is an occasion for us to honor activists and others who have contributed to the struggle for human rights, it is also a chance for our organization to renew our commitment to challenging the United States to live up to its ideals. As Chen said, “My hope is that all of us, as we go forward, will make human rights a priority.”

I think it shows the power of awards

CSM piece on lawyers as HRDs in China gives a fuller picture

May 22, 2012

With all the attention now focussed on Chen Guangcheng, the blind legal activist, this article of 21 May by Peter Ford, staff writer at the CSM, is most welcome. It describes the extremely difficult circumstances under which lawyers and legal activists have to work, explaining the difference between the two categories. It starts with describing the case of  Jiang Tianyong, who went to visit his friend Chen Guangcheng, soon after he had emerged from the US embassy.

Last year, as authorities cracked down on lawyers in the wake of the Arab Spring, Jiang “disappeared” for two months. He was “taken to some secret places, beaten, criticized, and brainwashed” by police officers, he recalls. Landlords have bowed to official pressure and evicted him five times from different homes, Jiang says. He has been subjected to several periods of house arrest; his wife and children have been harassed; guards have sealed his front door shut; and once, in a particularly petty act, they locked his wife’s bicycle, he says. And he lost his license to practice law in 2009.

“Human rights lawyers face a perilous life in China,” says John Kamm, a human rights activist who heads Duihua, which works on behalf of political prisoners in China. “They face many barriers.”

When lawyers are beaten, “disappeared,” or jailed, their plight generally attracts wide attention. Far more often, though, says Wang Songlian, a researcher with the Hong Kong based China Human Rights Defenders, it is “unqualified” legal advocates – such as Chen – who are abused for taking cases the government regards as sensitive. “There are probably dozens of them in jail, most of whom are not well known,” she says.

Qualified lawyer’s status gives them a measure of protection, but they are vulnerable to all kinds of official pressure. Crucially, they are obliged to renew their licenses with their local bar association each year – a hurdle Jiang failed to surmount in 2009. This means most lawyers pay attention when the Justice Ministry or the bar association issues “guidance” or “opinions” that they do not take sensitive cases, or that they handle them in a certain way, says Eva Pils, a legal expert at the Centre for Rights and Justice at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

If they don’t, she says, the authorities often warn the head of a recalcitrant lawyer’s firm that his business risks trouble. “At the point when it is felt that neither the Ministry of Justice nor the bar association nor a lawyer’s firm can control him, the security apparatus gets involved,” Professor Pils says.

Human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang says that “99 percent of lawyers will be affected by this sort of pressure.” He adds, “There is no organization in China supporting lawyers doing pro bono work, so very few will take it on because of all the trouble it gets you in.” The pressure on lawyers has been mounting for several years, says Pils, amid “fears that the [ruling Communist] Party might lose control over lawyers, who are not oriented to upholding party rule, but toward working for clients.”

In 2008, the judicial authorities proclaimed the “Three Supremes” doctrine, according to which judges were told to uphold the cause of the Communist Party, the interests of the people, and the Constitution and the law, in that order. Earlier this year, the Justice Ministry published a regulation requiring newly licensed lawyers to swear an oath of loyalty to the party. Despite the difficulties he and his colleagues face, Pu is optimistic. “Though the authorities would like to control the situation, society is getting more open, and I think it will continue to do so,” he says.

Twenty years ago, Mr. Kamm says, “there was no such thing as a [human] rights defender in China. Now we have a very different situation. Nothing encourages anyone to take on a human rights case, but the fact that there are people doing it is tremendously heartening.”

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