Posts Tagged ‘China’

International NGO opens office in Taiwan

May 17, 2022

On 16 May 2022 Safeguard Defenders announced the opening of its first Asian office in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei.

With our focus on the decline in human rights in China and other authoritarian states in the region, Taiwan was an obvious choice because of its open society and geographic proximity. Only recently emerging from its own authoritarian past, this progressive democracy has now become a popular base for civil society and media, particularly as Hong Kong’s human rights situation rapidly deteriorates under Beijing’s control.”

The story behind Safeguard Defenders goes back to 2009, the year when a small NGO called China Action was founded in Beijing by human rights activists Peter Dahlin from Sweden and Michael Caster from the U.S. and a small group of Chinese rights lawyers and other human rights defenders (HRD). ,,China Action was shuttered in 2016 after Chinese authorities targeted it in a major crackdown and when many of its staff and partners were detained, disappeared or imprisoned, including Peter. The foundation for Safeguard Defenders was laid in 2016, and was publicly launched in 2017. The organisation has inherited the mission of China Action, but with an expanded scope to support the survival and effectiveness of civil society and HRDs in some of Asia’s most hostile environments, including China.

Safeguard Defenders has been researching developing rule of law issues including arbitrary detention, the black jail systems of RSDL and Liuzhi, forced confessions, transnational repression including global harassment and kidnappings, and the CCP’s secret police institution, the National Supervisory Commission. See e,g, : https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/01/18/china-goes-after-dissidents-abroad/

Coming in the next few months, Safeguard Defenders will have several key and ground-breaking reports on China on issues including the practice of sending political prisoners to psychiatric hospitals, the latest violations of human rights in the name of Covid, and how Beijing has weaponized exit bans. It will also be launching a brand new website. Follow on Twitter. 

China’s reaction will not be nice…

https://safeguarddefenders.com/en/blog/safeguard-defenders-opens-taiwan-office

https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202205170025

NGOs condemn arbitrary arrest of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong

May 15, 2022

NOGs (such as Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Foundation) have condemned the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen, as well as the lawyer Joseph Zen, the singer Denise Ho and the scholar Hui Po-Keung, for having maintained contacts with foreign forces in Hong Kong.

HRW Senior China researcher Maya Wang, said that “the arrest of a 90-year-old cardinal is the latest example of the city’s human rights freefall in recent years.

The four, along with former lawmaker Cyd Ho, who is already in jail, were part of the 612 Humanitarian Aid Fund, which provided medical, legal and psychological help to protesters arrested during the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Kong.

Denise Ho, Margaret Ng, and others affiliated with Stand News, an independent pro-democracy online publication, were previously arrested by national security police in December 2021 under allegations of publishing “seditious” and “inflammatory” materials. Denise Ho formerly served on the board of Stand News, but stepped down in November 2021. Meanwhile, the 612 Humanitarian Support Fund ceased operations in October 2021 after national security police and Chinese state-backed media requested information on its beneficiaries and donors.

Maya Wang has specified that Hong Kong has “long been a regional leader in openness and respect for the rule of law, but now competes for the first places in Asia for repression and political prisoners.”

The people of Hong Kong have been unequivocal in their demand for human rights, and governments around the world should be unequivocal in their response to that call,” concluded the HRW researcher.

https://mailchi.mp/hrf.org/hong-kong-hrf-condemns-arbitrary-arrest-of-denise-ho-and-colleagues?e=f80cec329e

Lee Ming-che free and back in Taiwan

May 10, 2022

HUIZHONG WU for Associated Press on 10 May 2022 reports that a Taiwanese human rights activist, who served five years in jail in China, said that international pressure and the tireless advocacy by his wife worked to ensure his safe return to Taiwan. “I know that my life’s safety and security was defended by many people, thanks to everyone, I have never felt abandoned or alone,” Lee Ming-che said at a press conference Tuesday in his first public appearance since being released from prison.Lee Ming-che was arrested by Chinese authorities in 2017 and charged with subversion of state power. His arrest was China’s first criminal prosecution of a non-profit worker since Beijing passed a law tightening controls over foreign non-governmental organizations in 2016.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/04/china-and-its-willingness-to-detain-anyone-anytime-should-generate-more-reaction/

His arrest marked a turning point as China showed that it would not hesitate to prosecute Taiwanese individuals for political activism, regardless of the harm it would bring to cross-Strait relations.

Lee had given online lectures on Taiwan’s democratization and managed a fund for families of political prisoners in China that some friends had set up.

I did what I could do, using my credit card to buy some books,” he said, which he would send to friends in China. He would also give donations to the families of political prisoners. “This is not to interfere with the country’s internal affairs. All of this was simply a way of humanitarian caring.”Lee is the son of parents who were both born in China and had come to Taiwan with the ruling Nationalist Party. He had always thought of himself as a Chinese person growing up. That changed in high school with a history teacher who taught the students to learn about local history.

While Lee was able to come home, another prisoner, Lee Meng-chu, remains trapped in China. Lee Meng-chu has been accused of being a spy by Chinese authorities and is now serving the two years as part of his sentence which deprived him of “political rights.” Meng-chu had been in Hong Kong in 2019, during the massive anti-government protests that rocked the city, according to the semi-official Central News Agency. He disappeared after crossing the border into Shenzhen.

It’s uncertain how many Taiwanese are being held in Chinese prisons, as many families have chosen to remain quiet in the hopes of getting their loved ones’ release. This stands in contrast with Lee, the human rights activist’s case. In the last five years, Lee’s wife, Ching-yu worked with local nonprofit organizations to raise awareness about her husband’s case. .. That continued effort, both said, paid off. “International support can truly have a concrete change on the treatment of a political prisoner in China,” said Lee Ching-yu.

https://buffalonews.com/news/national/govt-and-politics/taiwan-activist-released-from-china-says-global-help-worked/article_159bb09e-b8f7-53fb-a959-2f96714c4e24.html

Press Freedom Awards in Hong Kong cancelled

April 29, 2022

Oiwan Lam on 26 April 2022 reported that Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club has canceled its Human Rights Awards for fear of “legal risks”

Image created by Oiwan Lam.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong (FCC HK), a press freedom watchdog, announced they would cancel their 2022 Human Rights Press Awards (HRPA) on April 25.  Eight members of the Club’s Press Freedom Committee have resigned in protest over the decision. 

Many foreign correspondents were shocked by the decision. Launched in 1995,  the HRPA has been one of the most important platforms to celebrate and honour human rights journalism from around Asia. The Club normally announces the winners on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.

Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) quoted sources from FCC HK that the cancellation was related to the legal risks in presenting awards to the now-defunct Stand News. Two former senior staff members of the independent news outlet have been charged with conspiring to publish “seditious publications” pending trial. 

Stand News was forced to shut down last December after security police raided its office. The police authorities accused the news site of publishing “seditious materials” with the intent to cause hatred towards the government and the judiciary. 

An FCC member told the HKFP that Stand News would receive four awards and five merits in this year’s award, but “certain items” would pose a legal risk. 

In a letter to the Club’s members, the president of FCC HK Keith Richburg said the decision was made in the organization’s board meeting on April 23:

Over the last two years, journalists in Hong Kong have been operating under new “red lines” on what is and is not permissible, but there remain significant areas of uncertainty and we do not wish unintentionally to violate the law. This is the context in which we decided to suspend the Awards.

The letter also says that “recent developments might also require changes to our [FCC HK’s] approach” in the promotion of press freedom.

As the city’s incoming Chief Executive John Lee has vowed to apply the “strictest measures” to clamp down on “anyone who tries to use journalistic work as a shield to engage in crimes endangering national security” in response to the crackdown on Apple Daily, FCC HK’s anticipation of legal risks is valid.

Yet, as a press freedom watchdog, many see the choice to ax the awards as an act of self-censorship antithetical to the organization’s purpose, as independent journalist Ilaria Maria Sala wrote on Twitter:

Eight members of the Club’s press freedom committee have resigned in protest over the decision. Shibani Mahtani, Washington Post’s Southeast Asia and Hong Kong Bureau Chief, is one of the resignees. As one of the winners of the Human Rights Press Awards in 2020, Shibani Mahtani expressed her regrets about the decision and explained, in a Twitter thread, the significance of the annual occasion in Asia: See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/01/rsfs-press-freedom-prize-2016-goes-to-the-64-tianwang-website-in-china/

For more on the real, unannounced winners: https://hongkongfp.com/2022/04/27/in-full-winners-of-the-axed-fcc-human-rights-press-awards-revealed/

see also for future editions:

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3176537/american-university-taking-over-hong-kong-press-groups

US State Department’s report 2021 is out

April 14, 2022

On 12 April, 2022, the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices was made public. The Human Rights Reports 2021 cover internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements. The U.S. Department of State submits reports on all countries receiving assistance and all United Nations member states to the U.S. Congress in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Trade Act of 1974. For nearly five decades, the United States has issued the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, – in 2021, covering 198 countries and territories.  The preface states that: “The Biden Administration has put human rights at the center of U.S. domestic and foreign policy.  We have also recognized our nation has not always succeeded in protecting the dignity and rights of all Americans, despite the proclamations of freedom, equality, and justice in our founding documents.  It is through the continued U.S. commitment to advance human rights, both domestically and internationally, that we best honor the generations of Americans who are Black, Brown, or other people of color, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, LGBTQI+ persons, immigrants, women and girls, and other historically marginalized groups whose advocacy for their rights and for others has pushed America toward a “more perfect union.

President Biden has called the defense of democracy and human rights the defining challenge of our time.  By convening the first Summit for Democracy in December 2021 – bringing together representatives from 100 governments as well as civil society and the private sector – he sparked global attention and vigor toward democratic renewal and respect for human rights.  Participating governments made significant commitments to revitalize democracy at home and abroad at the first Summit on which we expect meaningful progress during the current Year of Action and before the time of a second Summit.

The reports paint a clear picture of where human rights and democracy are under threat.  They highlight where governments have unjustly jailed, tortured, or even killed political opponents, activists, human rights defenders, or journalists, including in Russia, the People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, and Syria.  They document abuses of peaceful protestors demanding democracy and fundamental freedoms in countries such as Burma, Belarus, Cuba, Hong Kong, and Sudan.  They highlight worrying cases of transnational repression – where governments reach across borders to harass, intimidate, or murder dissidents and their loved ones – as exemplified in the dangerous forced diversion by Belarus of an international commercial flight for the sole purpose of arresting a critical independent journalist.

But they also contain signs of progress and glimmers of hope, as the indomitable will to live freely can never be extinguished.  In Iraq, people cast their votes to shape the future of their country in more credible and transparent parliamentary elections than in 2018.  In Botswana, a court advanced the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons by upholding the decriminalization of same-sex relations.  In Turkmenistan, all imprisoned Jehovah’s Witnesses conscientious objectors to military service were pardoned, a win for freedom of religion or belief.  The stability, security, and health of any country depends on the ability of its people to freely exercise their human rights – to feel safe and included in their communities while expressing their views or gender, loving who they love, organizing with their coworkers, peacefully assembling, living by their conscience, and using their voices and reporting from independent media to hold governments accountable.  There is much progress to be made, here in the United States and globally.  But I know that by working together in the Year of Action and using resources like the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, we can come closer to building a world where respect for human rights is truly universal.

In a reaction on the report human rights activists focused on China said theat they want the State Department to reboot the report’s format to address documentation blind spots and connect it to policy and initiatives to stop the violations and provide accountability for victims.

“It’s a descriptive, objective document but largely of human rights developments that had been already extensively reported by the media, by NGOs, and by human rights bodies within the UN and in many cases at greater detail and length. … It is essentially a recap,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of the New York City-based nonprofit Human Rights in China. “Since it appears to take quite a bit of resources to produce each year, I’d say that going forward, they reference and aggregate some of the developments within three very important, bigger trends like digital authoritarianism, [foreign] influence operations, and [China’s] growing extraterritorial reach.” [from https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/13/china-activists-state-dept-human-rights-00024876]

https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/embed/#?secret=ICAePzAuB5#?secret=IVCGC9q7rK

Chinese approach to international human rights

April 4, 2022

China appears regularly in this blog, usually in a less than flattering role. For some recent examples, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/china/. So, it could be useful to see the official ‘view’ from a country that is so sensitive on the issue of human rights [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/12/06/china-and-its-amazing-sensitivity-on-human-rights-defenders/]. You will not see a reference to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, of course:

On 28 February, 2022 the Chinese foreign Minister urged “sound development of global human rights” Wang issued his call at the high-level segment of the 49th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which he attended via video link.

Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivered a speech calling on the international community to uphold equity and justice to promote the sound development of the global human rights cause.

He said that ensuring the full enjoyment of human rights by all is an unremitting pursuit of humanity, while protecting human rights is the shared cause of all countries.

China believes that all parties should act as true practitioners of human rights, staunch guardians of people’s interests, positive contributors to common development, and firm defenders of equity and justice, said Wang.

Wang noted that respecting and protecting human rights is the unremitting pursuit of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and China will continue to steadfastly pursue a human rights development path that meets the trend of the times and suits its national conditions.

We will continue to uphold a human rights philosophy that puts people front and center, develop the whole-process people’s democracy, promote common prosperity for all, and safeguard the human rights of the Chinese people at a higher level,” said Wang.

China will continue to take an active part in UN human rights endeavours by making China’s voice heard and contributing China’s part to this worthy cause, he added.

Wang refuted false information about the affairs of China’s Xinjiang and Hong Kong, saying they had been hyped up with ulterior motives, and adding that China is ready to engage in human rights exchanges and cooperation with all countries on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

We do not accept self-styled ‘lecturers’ on human rights and reject stoking bloc confrontation in the name of human rights,” said the foreign minister.

http://www.china.org.cn/china/node_7076505.htm

EU – China Summit on 1 April should not be a joke

March 30, 2022

European Union leaders should announce specific policy responses to the Chinese government’s atrocity crimes, Human Rights Watch said today, 30 March 2022. A virtual summit between the EU and China is scheduled for April 1, 2022.

The summit takes place at a time of heightened tensions between the EU and the Chinese government, which retaliated against Lithuania for its relations with Taiwan, baselessly sanctioned EU bodies and European research institutions, and has not condemned Russian war crimes in Ukraine. The Chinese government’s disregard for international human rights norms mirrors its domestic track record of grave abuses without accountability.

The EU’s foreign policy chief has pointed with alarm to the Chinese government’s ‘revisionist campaign’ against universal human rights and institutions,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “Brussels should revise its approach to match the magnitude of that threat.”

In a March 18 joint letter from 10 nongovernmental organizations to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, president of the European Council, Human Rights Watch cited Chinese authorities’ deepening assault on human rights, including crimes against humanity targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic communities in Xinjiang, and heightened repression in Tibet and Hong Kong. Human rights defenders across the country – including the citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, the Uyghur intellectual and Sakharov Prize laureate Ilham Tohti, the Swedish publisher Gui Minhai, and many others – remain arbitrarily detained. {see https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/37AE7DC4-16DB-51E9-4CF8-AB0828AEF491, and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/02/25/gui-minhai-10-years-jail-sentence-in-china/

While the EU has taken important steps in reaction to these developments, including some targeted sanctions and strong condemnations of Beijing’s abuses at the United Nations, these efforts lack the consequences to bring significant change. The rights groups urged Michel and von der Leyen to use their time with the Chinese leaders to announce further steps to counter Beijing’s abuses, and cautioned them against calling for yet another round of the bilateral human rights dialogue, which after 37 rounds has proven unable to secure concrete progress.

Stronger, better coordinated action is also supported by the European Parliament, which has remained a staunch critic of the Chinese government’s crackdown and has repeatedly denounced its abuses. Beijing responded by sanctioning several members of the European Parliament. In response, the European Parliament froze consideration of a bilateral trade deal and called for a new, and more assertive, EU strategy on China, including further targeted sanctions and closer coordination with like-minded partners. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/05/21/china-eu-investment-deal-off-the-rail/]

Presidents Michel and von der Leyen should go beyond words of condemnation at the summit if they want to deter Chinese government violations now and in the future,” said Claudio Francavilla, EU advocate at Human Rights Watch. “Bolder steps are needed to counter Beijing’s crimes against humanity and anti-rights agenda, and EU leaders should announce their determination to pursue them.”

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/18/joint-ngo-letter-ahead-eu-china-summit

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/30/eu-no-business-usual-china-summit

China now badgers Ireland about its human rights stand

February 24, 2022
Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress, was labelled a "terrorist" by the Chinese Embassy in Ireland on Monday. Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse.

Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress, was labelled a “terrorist” by the Chinese Embassy in Ireland on Monday. Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse.

Eoghan Moloney in the Irish Independent of 22 February 2022 describes another case of undue pressure by the Chinese authorities on a nation that differs from their view on human rights. For other such behaviour, see my earlier post;

  • Ireland has been urged to “respect China’s sovereignty” and to “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs” after an Uyghur leader attended a meeting in the Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday.

Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), urged Ireland to “take action on Uyghur genocide” when he met with UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor and with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In response, the Chinese Embassy in Dublin said they “strongly condemn the anti-China separatist activities of the so-called ‘World Uyghur Congress’ in Ireland, and firmly oppose Irish government officials’ meeting with Dolkun Isa”.

The Embassy also accused “a few” Irish politicians of spreading “lies on Xinjiang and support for terrorist and separatist activities” and jumping “on the bandwagon of dirty political farce against China”.

The Chinese Embassy labelled the WUC as an “extremist organisation” and said its leader Dolkun Isa is a “terrorist” who is suspected of “organising and committing a series of violent terrorist activities and serious crimes in China”.

“The issues concerning Xinjiang are not about human rights, nationality or religion, but about fighting terrorism, separatism and religious extremism. The so-called “genocide”, “cultural extermination” or “forced labour” in Xinjiang, which are based on flat lies and disinformation, are political manipulations with hidden motives,” a statement from the Chinese Embassy said.

“We urge the Irish side to respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs under the guise of “human rights”. For those Irish politicians who have jumped on the bandwagon of dirty political farce against China, we urge them to stop parroting disinformation,” the statement continued.

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/asia-pacific/china-warns-ireland-to-stop-interfering-as-leader-of-persecuted-uyghurs-attends-meeting-with-irish-officials-in-dublin-41370665.html

Guide to 49th session of Human Rights Council – with human rights defenders focus

February 21, 2022

The 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council, from 28 February – 1 April 2022, will consider issues including the protection of human rights defenders, freedom of religion or belief, protection and promotion of human rights while countering terrorism, the right to food and adequate housing, among others. It will also present an opportunity to address grave human rights situations in States including Nicaragua, Venezuela, China, Syria, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Eritrea, among many others. Here’s an overview of some of the key issues on the agenda. The ISHR has issued again its excellent Guide to the upcoming session and I have extracted from it the issues most directly related to human rights defenders:

Protection of human rights defenders

On 11 March 2022, the UN Special Rapporteur will present her report on the work of human rights defenders to address corruption. At the 49th session of the HRC, Norway will present a thematic resolution on human rights defenders in conflict and post-conflict situations. A group of NGOs have produced a list of 25 recommendations related to key concerns that should be addressed in the resolution. These include recommendations related to the removal of legislation that impinges upon the ability of defenders to do their work, including counter-terrorism legislation; the development of protection measures that take into account the specific needs of particular groups of defenders and the precarious nature of their situation in conflict and post-conflict contexts, and specific measures to support human rights defenders in such contexts, including in regard to the provision of cloud-based solutions for storage of documentation, flexible and reliable funding and swift responses in the case of the need for relocation of human rights defenders and their families. ISHR joins these calls and to impress upon the Council the need for a strong commitment to acknowledging and taking action to protect human rights defenders working in such contexts.  In addition, we call on all UN members to monitor and report on their implementation of the resolution in a comprehensive way, sharing updates on challenges faced and progress made during relevant UN dialogues and debates.   

Reprisals

Reports of cases of intimidation and reprisal against those cooperating or seeking to cooperate with the UN not only continue, but grow. Intimidation and reprisals violate the rights of the individuals concerned, they constitute violations of international human rights law and undermine the UN human rights system.

The UN has taken some action towards addressing this critical issue including:

  • an annual report by the Secretary General;
  • a dedicated dialogue under item 5 to take place every September;
  • The appointment of the UN Assistant Secretary General on Human Rights as the Senior Official on addressing reprisals.

Despite this, ISHR remains deeply concerned about reprisals against civil society actors who try to engage with UN mechanisms, and consistent in its calls for all States and the Council to do more to address the situation. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

During the 48th session, the Council adopted a resolution on reprisals. The text was adopted by consensus for the first time since 2009 and invites the UN Secretary General to submit his annual report on reprisals and intimidation to the UN General Assembly. Once again the resolution listed key trends including that acts of intimidation and reprisals can signal patterns, increasing self-censorship, and the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies by States as justification for blocking access to the UN. The resolution also acknowledged the specific risks to individuals in vulnerable situations or belonging to marginalised groups, and called on the UN to implement gender-responsive policies to end reprisals. The Council called on States to combat impunity by conducting prompt, impartial and independent investigations and ensuring accountability for all acts of intimidation or reprisal, both online and offline, by condemning all such acts publicly, providing access to effective remedies for victims, and preventing any recurrence.

Item 5 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about specific cases of reprisals, and for governments involved in existing cases to provide an update to the Council on any investigation or action taken toward accountability to be carried out. The President should also update the Council on actions taken by the President and Bureau to follow up on cases and promote accountability under this item.

Other thematic debates

At this 49th session, the Council will discuss a range of topics in depth through dedicated debates with mandate holders. The debates with mandate holders include: 

  • The Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights 
  • The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
  • The Special Rapporteur on torture
  • The Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on the rights of specific groups including the Special Rapporteur on minority issues

In addition, the Council will hold dedicated debates on interrelation of human rights and human rights thematic issues including:

  • The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism
  • The Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment

Country-specific developments

China: High Commissioner Bachelet has still not released her Office’s report on grave human rights violations in the Uyghur region, six months after announcing its upcoming publication, and three months since her spokesperson indicated it would only be a matter of ‘weeks’. Further delays risk entrenching the Chinese government’s sense of impunity, and will harm the credibility of, and confidence in her Office’s capacity to address grave violations, some of which could amount to atrocity crimes. States should urge the High Commissioner to promptly publish her report, and present it to the Human Rights Council as a matter of utmost priority.  This includes ensuring sustained pressure around China’s abuse of national security in discourse and law, and on the widespread and systematic use of enforced disappearance under ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’ (RSDL). See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/05/chinas-residential-surveillance-at-a-designated-location-needs-to-disappear/

Burundi: The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi (CoI) concluded its work at the 48th HRC session in October 2021 while a new resolution establishing a mandate of UN Special Rapporteur on Burundi was adopted, resolution 48/16. The resolution tasks the mandate with monitoring the human rights situation in the country, making recommendations for its imp­ro­ve­ment, and re­por­ting to the Human Rights Council. While the Spe­cial Rapporteur will be unable to continue the entirety of the investigative work carried out by the CoI, they will “collect, examine and assess” information on human rights deve­lop­ments. Ahead of HRC48 more than 40 organisations, including ISHR, urged the Council to continue its scrutiny and further work towards justice and accountability in Burundi. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/07/03/germain-rukuki-burundi-human-rights-defender-out-of-jail/

The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) will ensure that evidence col­lec­ted by the CoI is “consolidated, preserved, accessible and usable in support of ongoing and future accountability efforts” including efforts to hold Bu­rundian officials responsible for atrocities in front of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Burundian government should resume its engagement with the Council and grant the Special Rap­porteur, who will be appointed in March 2022, access to the country for an official visit.

France: Following an urgent call by ISHR and the Comité Adama, UN experts sent two communications to the French government on 15 and 26 November 2021 asking for measures to ensure that human rights defenders, including people of African descent, enjoy a safe environment in which to carry out their legitimate work for human rights and justice. The lack of investigation in the case of Adama Traoré’s death and the judicial harassment against his sister Assa Traoré for her activism is a sign of broader systemic racism against Black people in policing and criminal justice in France. 

ISHR urges the HRC to continue its scrutiny and calls on France to ensure a prompt, transparent, and impartial investigation into the case of Adama Traoré; end the judicial harassment of Assa Traoré for her activism; accept the requests of the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism and the Working Group on People of African Descent to visit the country; end impunity for police violence; and ensure truly free and impartial investigations into the death or injury of anyone at the hands of the police, especially people of African descent.

Egypt: The joint statement delivered by States in March 2021 at the 46th session of the HRC played a critical role in securing the conditional release of several human rights defenders and journalists arbitrarily detained throughout 2021 and 2022. Regrettably, these releases do not reflect any significant change in Egypt’s systematic attacks on civic space and human rights defenders, including arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and criminalisation of the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly or public participation. On 3 February 2022, 175 parliamentarians from across Europe urged the HRC to establish a “long overdue monitoring and reporting mechanism on Egypt”. ISHR joined more than 100 NGOs from around the world in urging the HRC to create a monitoring and reporting mechanism on the ever-deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt. Continued, sustained and coordinated action on Egypt at the HRC is more necessary than ever. The HRC should follow up on the 2021 State joint statement and heed the calls of civil society and parliamentarians. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/01/11/the-arabic-network-for-human-rights-information-has-shut-down/

Nicaragua: A year after Council resolution 46/2, civil society reporting indicates no meaningful action has been taken by Nicaragua to implement any of the Council’s recommendations to the government. Instead, it has deepened its crackdown on human rights defenders and any form of dissent, and further closed civil society space ahead of the November 2021 electoral process. The government’s absolute disregard for cooperation with international and regional mechanisms, including the treaty bodies, is an additional sign that the government does not intend to revert course on the country’s human rights crisis. ISHR, jointly with the Colectivo 18/2, urges the Human Rights Council to establish an independent mechanism to investigate grave human rights violations since April 2018 in Nicaragua, as well as their root causes. The mechanism should verify alleged grave violations, identify perpetrators, and preserve evidence, with a view to long-term accountability processesSee also my post of today: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/21/nicaragua-death-in-detention-and-sham-trial/

Saudi Arabia: According to ALQST’s 2021 annual report, for a short time in early 2021, intense global pressure on Saudi Arabia’s leaders to improve their dismal human rights record resulted in some minor reforms and concessions, yet, when the pressure eased, the Saudi authorities resumed their habitual pattern of abuses with renewed intensity. A number of high-profile women human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience were conditionally released, but they remain under severe restrictions which means that while they are released, they are not yet free. Saudi authorities continue to crackdown on freedom of expression and hand down lengthy prison sentences to human rights defenders. Saudi Arabia is sensitive regarding its reputation and susceptible to international pressure.

Sudan: On 5 November 2021, the Human Rights Council held a special session to address the ongoing situation in the Republic of Sudan and mandated an Expert on human rights in Sudan to monitor and report on the situation until the restoration of its civilian-led Government. The HRC must extend the reporting mandate of the Expert as the human rights situation is deteriorating. The military is closing the civic space for women’s rights groups and women human rights defenders, including by stigmatising women’s rights groups as terrorists or drug abusers. The recent arrests of women human rights defenders are part of a systemic attack against WHRDs in Sudan. The military and security forces are using social media and traditional media to defame women protesters. Women’s rights groups and WHRDs are facing a new wave of attacks that include framing charges to prolong the detention of WHRDs and defame the women’s rights movement. The military reinstated the authorities of the former regime’s security forces in December 2021 in the emergency order number 3. The new emergency order gave Sudanese security complete impunity and protection from accountability for any form of violations on duty.  Sudanese security forces have a well-documented history of sexual abuse and torture of women detainees. WHRDs in detention are at risk of maltreatment, torture, and sexual violence. 

Venezuela is back under the microscope with updates from the Office of the High Commissioner and from the Council’s fact-finding mission on the country both scheduled for 17th March. Attention on the human rights situation in the country follows hot on the heels of the Universal Periodic Review of Venezuela that took place at the end of January.  The Council session is taking place at a time that Venezuelan civil society continues facing restrictions and attacks on their work. The head of human rights organisation, Fundaredes, has now been arbitrarily detained for 224 days. The Council session is an opportunity for States to express concern about the restrictions on civil society, and to enquire about the implementation of prior recommendations made to Venezuela by both OHCHR and the Mission. Despite being a Council member, Venezuela has yet to allow the Council’s own fact-finding mission access to the country, something the Council as a whole should denounce. 

The High Commissioner will provide an oral update to the Council on 7 March. The Council will consider updates, reports on and is expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in some instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates. These include:

  • Oral update and interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea
  • Oral update and interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on the Tigray region of Ethiopia 
  • Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s written update on Sri Lanka
  • Interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on  Nicaragua
  • Interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on Afghanistan
  • Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on ensuring accountability and justice in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem
  • Oral updates and interactive dialogues with the High Commissioner and fact-finding mission on Venezuela 
  • Oral update bv the High Commissioner and interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  • Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the OHCHR’s report on Belarus
  • Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report, enhanced interactive dialogue on the Secretary-General’s report, and interactive dialogue on the Special Rapporteur’s report on Myanmar
  • Interactive Dialogue on the Special Rapporteur’s report on Iran
  • Interactive Dialogue on the Commission of Inquiry’s report on Syria 
  • Interactive Dialogue on the Special Rapporteur’s report on the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967
  • Interactive Dialogues on the High Commissioner’s report and Commission on Human Rights’ report on South Sudan
  • Interactive Dialogue with the High Commissioner on Ukraine
  • High-level Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Central African Republic
  • Oral updates and enhanced interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner and the team of international experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Oral update by the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia 
  • Interactive Dialogue on the Independent Expert’s report on Mali 
  • Interactive Dialogue on the fact-finding mission’s report on Libya

Appointment of mandate holders

The President of the Human Rights Council will propose candidates for the following mandates: 

  1. Three members of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (one from the Pacific, one from Central and South America and the Caribbean, and one from Central and Eastern Europe, the Russian Federation, Central Asia and Transcaucasia); 
  2. The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change; 
  3. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan; 
  4. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi; 
  5. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967; 
  6. A member of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, from Western European and other States; 
  7. A member of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, from Asia-Pacific States; 
  8. A member of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, from Asia-Pacific States;
  9. A member of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, from Latin American and Caribbean States (an unforeseen vacancy that has arisen due to a resignation).

Resolutions to be presented to the Council’s 49th session

At the organisational meeting on 14 February the following resolutions were announced (States leading the resolution in brackets):

  1. Human rights of persons belonging to minorities (Austria, Mexico, Slovenia)
  2. Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief (Pakistan on behalf of the OIC) 
  3. Human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the obligation to ensure accountability and justice (Pakistan on behalf of the OIC) 
  4. Cultural rights (Cuba)
  5. The negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights (Azerbaijan on behalf of NAM)
  6. Right to work (Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Mexico, Romania)
  7.  Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran – mandate renewal (Iceland, Moldova, North Macedonia, UK) 
  8. Rights of the child (GRULAC and EU)
  9. Human rights defenders (Norway)
  10. Adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to non-discrimination in this context (Germany, Brazil, Finland, Namibia)
  11. Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic – mandate renewal (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Netherlands, Qatar, Turkey, UK, USA)
  12. Situation of human rights in South Sudan – mandate renewal (Albania, Norway, USA, UK)
  13. Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism – mandate renewal (Mexico)
  14. Prevention of genocide (Armenia)
  15. Situation of human rights in Belarus – mandate renewal (EU)
  16. Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)- mandate renewal (EU) 
  17. Situation of human rights in Myanmar – mandate renewal (EU)
  18. Freedom of religion or belief (EU)
  19. Technical assistance and capacity-building for Mali in the field of human rights (Africa Group)
  20. Technical assistance and capacity-building for South Sudan (Africa Group) 
  21. Role of states in countering the negative impact of disinformation on human rights (Ukraine)

During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on Myanmar, Greece, Suriname, Samoa, Hungary, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Papua New Guinea, Tajikistan, United Republic of Tanzania, Eswatini, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand and Ireland.

During each Council session, panel discussions are held to provide member States and NGOs with opportunities to hear from subject-matter experts and raise questions. 7 panel discussions and 1 thematic meeting are scheduled for this upcoming session:

To stay up-to-date: Follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC49 on Twitter, and look out for our Human Rights Council Monitor.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/10/19/48th-session-of-the-human-rights-council-outcomes/

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/hrc49-key-issues-on-agenda-of-march-2022-session/

Campaign to free Chinese human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng

February 17, 2022

ISHR, the Martin Ennals Foundation and eight other major human rights groups urge in a joint statement the Chinese government to ensure lawyer Yu Wensheng is able to leave Nanjing Prison on March 1st, and freely reunite with his family in Beijing.

The signatory organisations also called in the joint statement for sustained attention on the growing risks and threats his wife, Xu Yan, faces for advocating for his rights and release. 

A Laureate of the 2021 Martin Ennals Award, Yu Wensheng is a leading figure among human rights lawyers in China. He has fearlessly taken on a number of sensitive cases and issues, joining litigations on air pollution advocating for a constitutional government. See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/69fc7057-b583-40c3-b6fa-b8603531248e

For this, the authorities revoked his legal license on 16 January, 2018. Three days later, he was forcibly disappeared, a day after publishing an open letter calling for constitutional reform. He was put on trial in secret on 9 May 2019, but his wife, Xu Yan, was only informed of his four-years jail sentence in June 2020.

Yu Wensheng is expected to leave prison in Nanjing on 1 March 2022, after being detained for 50 months, which should mark the end of his sentence for ‘inciting subversion of State power’. As early as May 2019, UN experts concluded his detention was arbitrary and called on the government to release him. Ever since, a number of government and UN experts have called for his release.

The signatories of the joint statement express grave concern that Yu Wensheng may be put under a de facto home arrest, severely restricted in his movements and communication, and unable to reunite with his family in Beijing.

Human rights lawyers have endured such restrictions upon leaving prison on grounds of a supplemental sentence of ‘deprivation of political rights’, in a phenomenon known as ‘non-release release’. In September 2019, UN experts condemned the use of this practice against lawyer Jiang Tianyong as ‘gratuitously punitive and legally unjustified’.

IThe signatory organisations urge the Chinese authorities to: 

  • Ensure that Yu Wensheng is able to reunite with his family in Beijing on 1 March, to exercise his rights to move and communicate freely, and that he is not subjected to surveillance and harassment. He must also be able to resume his legal work without restrictions;
  • Put an end to the surveillance and harassment of Yu Wensheng’s family; 
  • Guarantee in all circumstances that all lawyers in China, including human rights lawyers, are able to carry out their legitimate professional duties without fear of reprisals and free of restrictions.

You can add your own voice by filling out the form in: https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/on-march-1st-chinese-lawyer-yu-wensheng-must-be-fully-free/

Read the full statement https://ishr.ch/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Joint-NGO-statement-on-YWS_English-1.pdf

https://mailchi.mp/ishr/749qlxejj6-33409?e=d1945ebb90