Posts Tagged ‘China’

Forced television confessions in China lead to request to ban CCTV in UK

January 8, 2019

On 8 January 2019 the Hong Kong Free Press reports that Swedish human rights defender Peter Dahlin has filed a complaint with the British telecommunications regulator against Chinese state media China Central Television (CCTV) for contravening the broadcasting code and violating the Human Rights Act. In his complaint to the Office of Communications (Ofcom) yesterday, Dahlin – who is director of human rights NGO Safeguard Defenders – cited his own appearance on Chinese state television in 2016. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/12/how-china-extracts-televised-confessions-from-human-rights-defenders/]
China Central Television Building in Beijing

China Central Television Building in Beijing. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Dahlin said in his complaint that the production and airing of his televised “confession” violates a significant part of the privacy and fairness provisions of the broadcasting code, since no consent was given. He added that all statements made during his appearance were done so under duress and were pre-written for him: “I was given a paper with prepared questions and answers, and told to memorise,” he said. “I, like many victims who have later spoken out, was never told or informed, that this was to be a public TV recording, but that it was for internal use only.”….

The complaint stated that CCTV violated paragraph 6 of the Human Rights Act, which governs the acts of public authorities, by denying Dahlin the right to a fair trial. It also states that CCTV violated article 8 of the act, which protects the right to privacy.  The complaint also said that CCTV knowingly produced “lies and [the] intentional distortion of facts…” with the help of the Ministry of State Security in China.

A British fraud investigator also filed a complaint to Ofcom last NovemberPeter Humphrey said he was forced to confess on CCTV for crimes he had been not convicted of in 2013 and 2014. He urged the regulator to revoke the UK licence and credentials of both CCTV and its international arm CGTN.

Peter Humphrey

A drawing of Peter Humphrey’s forced confession. Photo: Handout.

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/01/08/swedish-activist-made-confess-chinese-state-tv-urges-uk-broadcast-regulator-ban-channel/

LinkedIn reverses censorship position re Zhou Fengsuo’s profile

January 7, 2019

Zhou Fengsuo –  Getty Images

On 3 January, LinkedIn sent Zhou a message saying his profile and activities would not be viewable to users in China because of “specific content on your profile” (without saying which content!). Hours later, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn reversed its decision, apparently after South China Morning Post reporter Owen Churchill brought attention to the case. See the exchange below:

————-

China and its willingness to detain anyone anytime should generate more reaction

January 4, 2019

Michael Caster, human rights advocate and author of The People’s Republic of the Disappeared, is co-founder of the human rights organisation Safeguard Defenders. He wrote in the Guardian of Friday 4 January 2019 “China thinks it can arbitrarily detain anyone. It is time for change”

Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, has called China’s detention of Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor a “worrying precedent” but for many China watchers it is all too familiar. It reminds us of the detentions of other foreign citizens, such as Canadian Kevin Garratt, Briton Peter Humphrey, Sweden’s Gui Minhai, or Taiwanese Lee Ming-che, and that over the years China has institutionalised arbitrary and secret detention affecting innumerable Chinese citizens, and with little international consequence. China feels emboldened to place literally anyone under arbitrary and secret detention, regardless of citizenship. It is now long overdue for the world to stand up. While Kovrig and Spavor have been granted consular access, it is reportedly limited to one visit a month. Consular access, like access to a lawyer, is a procedural safeguard against abuse in custody. In China, where abuse in custody, especially in the first few weeks of detention, is well documented, the importance of consular or legal access cannot be over emphasised. There are reports Kovrig is being denied access to a lawyer.

China routinely denies such fundamental rights through its system for arbitrary and secret detention. This includes residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL) [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/10/more-on-residential-surveillance-in-a-designated-location-rsdl-in-china/]….

Canadian Michael Spavor
Pinterest Canadian Michael Spavor is one of the latest victim of China’s system of arbitrary detention. Photograph: AP

…Conditions are less severe for foreigners than for Chinese citizens, but they are never free from abuse. Sadly, reports indicate Kovrig is being interrogated morning, noon, and night, and subjected to sleep deprivation. Because of such abuse, the United Nations committee against torture, as early as 2016, called on China, as a matter of urgency, to repeal domestic provisions allowing for RSDL and other forms of secret detention. Earlier this year, human rights groups Safeguard Defenders, the International Service for Human Rights, Network for Chinese Human Rights Defenders, and Rights Practice sent a submission on RSDL to the UN. In their response, experts from the Human Rights Council noted that RSDL exposes its victims to torture and that exceptions in the law make it tantamount to an enforced disappearance, grave crimes under international law.

…..In each case where China has not been held accountable, it virtually guarantees the next.

Any country that systematically denies the rights of its own citizens, and flaunts international norms, should worry us all because such abuses, as we are increasingly seeing, don’t stop at the colour of one’s passport. That China has now arbitrarily detained several Canadian citizens in thuggish pursuit of Communist party interests should clearly be denounced, and their immediate release demanded, but it should surprise no one considering China has institutionalised just this type of abusive behaviour with effectively no international repercussions. It is time for change.

And then there is the remarkable reaction by the same Government when it concerns a Chinese citizen as in the case of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/06/chinese-government-quote-of-the-year/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/04/china-thinks-it-can-arbitrarily-detain-anyone-it-is-time-for-change

China: Weiquanwang’s annual report details more than 800 political prisoners in 2018

January 2, 2019

And for those interested in China there is a good wrap up in a piece of 31 December 2018 by Radio Free Asia. It refers to the Weiquanwang rights website which published its annual report detailing more than 800 political prisoners in China. [for some of my other posts on China: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/china/]

The same article details other cases such as:

Authorities in Guangdong have handed down a two-year jail term to anti-censorship campaigner Zhen Jianghua after finding him guilty of subversion. He was tried in secret in Guangdong’s Zhuhai city on Aug. 10, and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment after the court found him guilty of “incitement to subvert state power,” his former defense attorney Ren Quanniu told RFA. “Given the particular circumstances of the case, two years is quite a harsh sentence,” Ren said. “They could have given him a suspended sentence for this, but this is probably because he refused to cooperate and plead guilty.” Zhen had registered a website overseas to elude ruling Chinese Communist Party censorship, and offered information about censorship, and circumvention tools for accessing the internet beyond the complex system of blocks, filters, and human censorship that make up China’s Great Firewall. [According to Frontline Defenders, Zhen had also worked as a technical consultant with Human Rights Campaign in China, as an advising expert with Chinese Wikipedia, and as a project officer of a HIV/AIDS prevention education project in Zhuhai, run by the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation.]

The tally also included Deng Yaoqiong, a woman incarcerated in a psychiatric facility in the central province of Hunan after she live-streamed video of herself splashing ink on a poster of President Xi Jinping. Dong Yaoqiong was sent for “compulsory treatment” after she streamed live video of herself splashing ink on a poster of President Xi in Shanghai, in protest at “authoritarian tyranny” on July 4. She is being held as a psychiatric patient in a women’s ward in Hunan’s Zhuzhou No. 3 Hospital. Her father Dong Jianbiao and Beijing artist-activist Hua Yong were also detained when they spoke out about her detention. Beijing artist Guo Zi said Hua Yong is now in contact with the outside world after his detention, but that nothing has been heard from Dong Yaoqiong or her father. “It’s nearly 2019 now, and it’s a great tragedy that there is still no legal framework being implemented for the freedom of speech … nearly 20 years into the 21st century,” he said.

Another political prisoner, veteran democracy activist Wang Bingzhang, has warned that his life is in danger in prison, where he is serving a life sentence for “espionage” in the southern province of Guangdong. Wang made the comments to his daughter, who visited him on Christmas Day. “In particular, he said that if he met with an unfortunate end, it wouldn’t be from health or physical problems, because his health was OK.

Patrick Poon, China researcher for Amnesty International, said the mass incarceration of Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in the northwestern region of Xinjiang has been a major concern during 2018. The authorities have also stepped up a nationwide crackdown on religious believers, shutting down churches and mosques and detaining anyone who resists. “Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Hui Muslims, and other Muslim minorities have been persecuted to a high degree, and we have heard reports of torture and inhumane treatment,” Poon said. Meanwhile, a crackdown on human rights lawyers and associated activists begun in July 2015 continues to widen, while political prisoners are denied a fair trial in Chinese courts. “The Chinese government should stop all of this persecution, and respond to concern from the international community by releasing all political prisoners,“. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/15/today-ilham-tohti-completes-his-fourth-year-in-chinese-detention/]

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/prisoners-12312018133354.html  (as reported by Lau Siu-fung for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Liu Fei for the Mandarin Service; translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie))

Chinese Government quote of the year

December 6, 2018

It is not often that this blog can quote the Chinese authorities in full agreement:

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson told reporters: “…detention without giving any reason violates a person’s human rights.”

[“We have made solemn representations to Canada and the US, demanding that both parties immediately clarify the reasons for the detention, and immediately release the detainee to protect the person’s legal rights.”]

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-46465768

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”.

Olympic Committee tries its hands on human rights, ..cautiously

December 3, 2018

The IOC has set up an advisory committee on human rights chaired by Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the former U.N. high commissioner for human rights. One can only hope that he will fare better than his UN predecessor’s short tenure in FIFA’s Governance Committee and that the IOC’s human right panel will do a better job than its FIFA counterpart [see my post of today: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/03/fifas-second-report-on-human-rights-misses-sustainable-approach/]. The IOC advisory committee was in the pipeline since March 2017 [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/03/14/olympic-games-in-future-bound-by-human-rights-standards/].

IOC President Thomas Bach said Saturday 2 December 2018 at meetings in Tokyo that “human rights standards” will be included in Olympic host-city contracts, beginning with the 2024 Games in Paris. “Promoting humanistic values in sport has been a core feature of the IOC since its beginning” and “Our mission, to put sport at the service of humanity, goes hand in hand with human rights, which is part of our DNA” But his answers re the Bejing Winter Olympics in 2022 fell short of this lofty language: Bach was asked if the committee would look at human rights in China, where hundreds of thousands of Muslims in western China are being held in interment camps. He said the IOC would not question China because it “has not the mandate nor the authority to solve the human rights problems” that are clearly “political issues. Bach suggested the committee would focus on issues like the rights of transgender athletes. “We should concentrate on what we can really achieve and what we can really do” .

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/27/new-global-center-for-sport-and-human-rights-created-to-address-abuses/

14 major NGOs call for immediate release of Chinese human rights defender Huang Qi

November 6, 2018

Chinese authorities must immediately and unconditionally release citizen journalist and human rights defender Huang Qi, a group of 14 NGOs (and not the least, see below) said on November 5, 2018. Huang Qi (黄琦), the founder and director of 64 Tianwang Human Rights Center, is not receiving adequate medical care in detention and his health has seriously deteriorated, according to his lawyer who visited him on October 23. Huang’s condition is so serious that there is an immediate threat to his life. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/12/01/rsfs-press-freedom-prize-2016-goes-to-the-64-tianwang-website-in-china/]

The Chinese government must immediately and unconditionally release Huang, who has been detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression, and end its policy of denying prompt medical treatment to prisoners of conscience. Several human rights defenders and ethnic and religious minorities have died in detention in recent years due to a lack of prompt medical treatment, including Liu Xiaobo, Cao Shunli [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/27/china-or-the-un-must-ensure-independent-investigation-into-death-of-cao-shunli/], Yang Tongyan, and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, intensifying fears that Huang Qi might suffer the same fate without urgent intervention.

Authorities have repeatedly rejected applications for release on medical bail despite Huang’s heath condition continuing to deteriorate. He faces charges of “illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities” and “leaking state secrets” due to his work with 64 Tianwang Human Rights Center, which documents and publishes reports on enforced disappearances, trafficking, human rights violations and complaints against government officials. Huang faces the possibility of life imprisonment. His 85-year-old mother has been campaigning for his release, fearing he may die in prison. Last month two of his associates received suspended prison sentences and were released, but authorities have continued to hold Huang. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion in April 2018 that declared Huang’s detention arbitrary, but the Chinese government continues to ignore the Working Group’s recommendation that Huang be released and compensated.

Lawyers representing Huang Qi have also faced retaliation. One of his lawyers, Sui Muqing, was disbarred in February 2018 for defending human rights defenders, such as Huang. [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/human-rights-lawyer-sui-muqing-disbarred] Huang’s current lawyer, Liu Zhengqing, received a notice in October that he is under investigation for giving Huang cigarettes during a meeting in July. Liu faces suspension of his law license or a large fine.

http://rsdlmonitor.com/immediately-unconditionally-release-huang-qi/

In this context also relevant is: https://mailchi.mp/ishr/alert-to-the-human-rights-councils-35th-session-31901?e=d1945ebb90

No naming and shaming on reprisals at 39th Human Right Council session

October 5, 2018

On my ‘favorite’ topic of reprisals [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/ ] the ISHR reported that for the first time, the Human Rights Council had a chance to have a dialogue on the Secretary-General’s annual report on reprisals on 20 September 2018. Civil society had hoped States would seize this opportunity to denounce States carrying out reprisals against defenders engaging with the UN. Regrettably only one State, Germany, made explicit reference to a case of reprisal in the report. ‘We welcome in particular Germany’s intervention in the dialogue, citing the case of Egyptian lawyer Ibrahim Metwally, detained since October 2017 by the Egyptian authorities’, said Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR Human Rights Council Advocate. ‘This is precisely what we need more of—States having the courage and conviction to stand up for defenders and call out countries that attack and intimidate them. What we see now is defenders dissuaded from engaging because the cost is too high. What we need is for States to turn away from repression and attacks, because the cost to them is too high’.

The senior official on reprisals, Andrew Gilmour [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/andrew-gilmour/], presented the Secretary-General’s annual report on reprisals during the first ever interactive dialogue with the Human Rights Council. The report catalogues 45 new cases of reprisals, ranging from travel bans and smear campaigns to arbitrary arrests and detention, inhuman treatment, torture, and killing. The ASG made it clear in his presentation that reported cases are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and spoke of three significant trends:

(1) the systematic denigration of human rights defenders and civil society organizations as “terrorists”;

(2) reprisals often being disguised as legal, political and administrative measures; and

(3) the use of accreditation and security procedures to hinder people from speaking out at UN headquarters and elsewhere.

ISHR delivered a statement during the session citing cases of reprisals against Chinese defenders not included in the report—Wang Qiaoling, Li Wenzu, Cao Shunli, and Uyghur activist Dolkun Isa—and calling for systematic follow-up by the Council on cases in the report.

We are especially concerned, once again, about the high number of Council Members or candidates for Council membership cited in the report, including: Bahrain, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Hungary, India, Iraq, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela,’ said El Hosseiny.

Half of the States cited in the report intervened during the dialogue to deny the allegations against them. While a significant number of States engaging in the dialogue supported the mandate to varying degrees and asked the ASG what could be taken to strengthen it, another group questioned the ASG’s methodology. Still others firmly opposed the work of the ASG on reprisals, including China and Cuba. China said it ‘regrets and objects’ to the report and the mechanism, and its use of ‘unproven information’, which it deems an interference with its sovereignty.

A side event organised by ISHR following the dialogue highlighted the urgent need to improve both the physical and digital security of defenders at risk of reprisals, and for States and the OHCHR to take a stronger position on this issue at a time when powerful States are threatening the UN system and its core values. ISHR in particular noted its disappointment with the low number of States in the dialogue that took due note of the allegations in the report, as opposed to attacking the methodology of the report and the reliability of the information.

Watch the statement here: 

Read ISHR’s full statement to the Council here.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc39-l-states-largely-decline-cite-specific-cases-during-councils-first-discussion-reprisals

BRICS leaders should have addressed human rights at their recent summit

July 30, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) and Turkish President Recep Erdogan (R) interact during a family photo during the BRICS summit meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, 27 July 2018. EPA-EFE/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / POO

As they met in Johannesburg last week, BRICS leaders focused on the economy, development, peacekeeping, health and industrialisation issues within the bloc (accounting for 40% of the world’s population). However, equally important issues such as the protection and realisation of human rights in the respective countries remained off the agenda. Jennifer Wells, an intern with AI South Africa, on 30 July 2018, gave a useful reminder of what could and should have been also addressed:

Brazil

Brazil has one of the highest murder rates in the world, with around 60,000 people murdered each year…Brazil’s failure to protect black Brazilians from police violence remains critical as this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Candelaria killings. The tragedy, in which eight young black boys were killed by off-duty police officers in Rio de Janeiro in 1993, represents the endemic racism within the Brazilian security forces. The situation was aggravated by the murder of Rio de Janeiro human rights defender and councilwoman Marielle Franco on 14 March 2018. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/03/16/marielle-franco-38-year-old-human-rights-defender-and-city-councilor-of-rio-assassinated/]

Russia

human rights defenders and civil society activists continued to face harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrests across the country. The trial of human rights defender Oyub Titiev started in Chechnya. He, like several other human rights defenders, is being prosecuted on trumped-up criminal charges. Law enforcement agencies continue to launch cases on fabricated “extremism” and “terrorism” charges. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/15/chechen-human-rights-defender-oyub-titiev-arrested-on-trumped-up-charges/] The Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, serving 20 years on “terrorism” charges, is on day 75 of a hunger strike demanding the release of “64 political prisoners from Ukraine”. The right to freedom of peaceful assembly has been increasingly restricted in Russia since 2012 and remains under severe clampdown. …. The rights of LGBTI people are trampled upon daily and the authorities continue to refuse to investigate the horrific gay purge in Chechnya. The World Cup has come and gone, but the suppression of freedoms and shrinking of civil liberties continues unabated.

India

It’s a similar story in India where human rights defenders are consistently under threat, attacked and threatened, often from security forces. India has witnessed horrific instances of alleged extrajudicial executions by security forces for years as police and federal forces have effective immunity from prosecution. In the North-Eastern state of Manipur, human rights defenders who have lost their loved ones in alleged extrajudicial executions and are now campaigning for justice, face unprecedented attacks. Salima Memcha, a widow who lost her husband to an alleged extrajudicial execution, was verbally threatened by security personnel. Her house was also vandalised by them. Three other human rights defenders in Manipur have faced similar reprisals for campaigning for justice for their loved ones.

China

In China, the government continues to enact repressive laws under the guise of “national security” that present serious threats to human rights. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobodied in custody whilst other human rights defenders are detained, prosecuted and sentenced on vague charges such as “subverting state power”, “separatism” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. Controls on the internet have been strengthened and freedom of expression and freedom of association are under attack.[see also:https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/12/how-china-extracts-televised-confessions-from-human-rights-defenders/]

South Africa

In the host nation, nearly a quarter of century after adopting arguably one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, the country is bedevilled by profound inequalities, which persistently undermine economic, social and cultural rights. Failures in the criminal justice system continue to present barriers to justice for victims of human rights abuses and violations, including the state’s failure to hold perpetrators accountable for the killing of 34 striking mineworkers in Marikana in 2012 by the South African Police Service. Access to sexual and reproductive health services remain a human rights issue as does the provision of quality education.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-07-30-what-brics-leaders-should-have-talked-about/