Posts Tagged ‘China’

Human Rights Defenders’ issues in the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council

February 20, 2019

Based on the – as usual – excellent briefing by the International Service for human Rights on the key issues on the agenda of the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council (starting on 25 February 2019), I am focusing on the items that concern human rights defenders most.

The UN Human Rights Council (the Council) will hold its 40th regular session at Palais des Nations in Geneva from 25 February 2019 to 22 March 2019.

Here are some highlights of the session’s thematic discussions.

Protection of human rights defenders including women human rights defenders

The Council will consider a resolution, presented by Norway, on the situation of human rights defenders working on rights related to land and environment, in particular the specific risks faced by women human rights defenders, to combat impunity for attacks against them, and ensure full civil society participation in development and the management of natural resources. The resolution should call on States to commit to conditioning the provision of diplomatic support to business – such as export credit guarantees and trade support – on companies’ commitment to respect, consult and protect defenders. It should also acknowledge the increasing willingness of some companies to speak out against threats and attacks on human rights defenders, and to raise the bar on accountability for companies who don’t.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders will present his report on women human rights defenders on 28 February. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/17/latest-report-by-special-rapporteur-on-women-human-rights-defenders-is-now-available/]

Reprisals

Reports of cases of intimidation and reprisal against those cooperating or seeking to cooperate with the UN not only continue, but grow. [I did almost too many posts on this, see recent ones: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/]

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

  • Establishing a dedicated dialogue under item 5 to take place every September;
  • Affirmation by the Council of the particular responsibilities of its Members, President and Vice-Presidents to investigate and promote accountability for reprisals and intimidation; and
  • The appointment of UN Assistant Secretary General on Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, as the Senior Official on addressing reprisals.

However, ISHR and most NGOs remains deeply concerned about reprisals against defenders who try to engage with UN mechanisms, and consistently with previous calls, urges all States and the Council to do more to address the situation. Item 5 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda provides a key opportunity for States to raise concerns about 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. (In line with previous calls, ISHR expects the President of the Human Rights Council to publicly identify and denounce specific instances of reprisals)

Country-specific:

China

The past year was marked by vitally important monitoring and review of China’s human rights situation by the United Nations human rights system. The upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council provides a key opportunity for States to reinforce the issues raised over the last year, and express collective concern about worsening rights abuse in China and the government’s failure to follow through on its obligations and commitments.

ISHR and almost 40 other organisations are calling on the Council to adopt a resolution addressing human rights in China, with particular focus on Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic and religious minority groups, over a million of whom are being interned and detained in Xianjiang region alone. [see: https://www.ifex.org/china/2019/02/19/xinjiang-resolution/]

Saudi Arabia

If the international community is serious about contributing to advancing women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, it should recognise Saudi women human rights defenders as agents of change and urge the Saudi authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee a safe and enabling environment for them to continue their vital work. ISHR recalls that in November 2018, Saudi Arabia underwent its Universal Periodic Review where at least 23 States called for the protection of human rights defenders and journalists in the kingdom. Over 170 organisations from across the globe have previously called for the Council to hold an inquiry into human rights abuses in the country. [see also how Saudi Arabia is trying to cover up its violations: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/01/sports-and-human-rights-focus-on-sports-washing-big-names-play-for-big-money/%5D

Burundi

At last Council session, the Council renewed the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, who will present its oral briefing on 12 March at 12:00. ISHR continues to remain highly concerned about the human rights situation in Burundi and its refusal to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms. For more information on the situation of human rights defenders in Burundi, check ISHR Briefing Paper for the UPR here. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/07/final-step-burundi-closes-down-un-office/]

Other thematic reports and country situations

The Council will also consider the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism on several occasions. The High Commissioner will present a report on the issue and the Special Rapporteur will present her annual report focused on national security restrictions on civic space, as well as reports of the visits to TunisiaSaudi Arabia, Sri Lanka,  France and Belgium. [see inter alia: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/anti-terrorism-legislation/]

The Council will consider several reports on torture, including the annual report of the Special Rapporteur, the reports from his visits to Serbia and Kosovo, Ukraine, and Argentina, and two reports by the Secretary General on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture and the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

At this 40th session, the Council will discuss a range of economic, social and cultural rights in depth through dedicated debates with mandate holders alongside the annual report of the Secretary-General on the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights globally.

Country situations

The High Commissioner will present her first annual report to the Council on 6 March at 10:00. In addition, the Council will consider reports by the High Commissioner and mandate holders on several country situations. The Council is also expected to consider resolutions addressing a range of country situations, in some instances involving the renewal of the relevant expert mandates. The country-specific debates include:

  • Interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria
  • Interactive dialogue with the Commission on human rights on South Sudan 
  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Iran
  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
  • Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea
  • Interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur and the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territories
  • Enhanced interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on the Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on Mali 
  • High-level interactive dialogue on the Central African Republic
  • Interactive dialogue on the OHCHR report on Sri Lanka
  • Interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s oral report on Ukraine 
  • High Commissioner oral briefings and Secretary General reports on the following countries: Colombia, Cyprus, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, Yemen and Afghanistan

Adoption of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports

During this session, the Council will adopt the UPR working group reports on several countries and provides an opportunity for Saudi Arabia, China, Nigeria and Chad to accept recommendations made in relation to human rights defenders, as proposed in ISHR’s briefing papers.

Resolutions

During the organisational meeting for the 40th session held on 11 February 2019, the President of the Human Rights Council presented the programme of work. It includes four panels of discussion and 108 reports. States also announced at least 15 resolutions but more can resolutions can be expected. These include:

  • Rights of Child (GRULAC and the EU)
  • Human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (EU, Japan)
  • Human rights situation in Myanmar (EU)
  • Human rights, democracy and the rule of law (Morocco, Norway, Peru, Romania, Republic of Korea, Tunisia)
  • Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka (UK, Germany, Macedonia)
  • Human rights situation in South Sudan (UK)
  • Human rights situation in Syria (France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Kingdom)
  • Human rights defenders (Norway)
  • Human rights situation in Iran (Macedonia, Moldova, UK, Sweden)

Panel discussions

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. All panel discussions will be broadcast live and archived onhttp://webtv.un.org. These panel discussions include:

  • Annual high-level panel discussion on human rights mainstreaming titled “Human rights in the light of multilateralism: opportunities, challenges and the way forward” which will take place on 25 February at 16:00.
  • Biennial high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty, titled “Human rights violations related to the use of the death penalty, in particular with respect to the rights to non-discrimination and equality” which will take place on 26 February at 09:00.
  • Debate on the mitigation and countering of rising nationalist populism and extreme supremacist ideologies (for the Commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination), which will take place on 15 March at 16:00. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/05/24/mea-at-25-high-level-anniversary-panel-looks-at-human-rights-in-crisis/]

Side events

Many side event will be organized by NGOs (you can download the draft list of NGO events here). the ISHR is organizing at least 3 that are of particular interest to human rights defenders:

  • Protection of women human rights defenders, 1 March from 11:30 to 13:00 in Room XXV
  • Can the UPR advance Freedom of Expression in China?, 13 March from 13:30 to 14:30 in Room XXIII
  • 20 years after the adoption of the HRD Declaration: The positive experience of West Africa on the development of national laws protecting defenders, 20 March 15:00 to 16:00 in Room XXIII

Also relevant are:

  • Reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, organised by Forum-Asia, will take place on 28 February, at 14:00 (time and location TBC). This side event aims to provide the international community with information on the Government’s implementation of the resolution 30/1 from the perspectives of civil society, and share proposals for further action by the Human Rights Council.
  • Counter terrorism laws and civic space, organised by the Civic Space Initiative (A19, CIVICUS, ICNL and WMD) and will take place on 1 March at 10:30 (time and location TBC).
  • Escazu and Beyond: Strengthening the global normative framework on protecting environmental defenders, organised by CIVICUS and will take place on 5 March at 11:00 (time and location TBC). The side event aims to bring together civil society representatives, UN bodies and State representatives to discuss their intersecting role in promoting and protecting civic space for environmental defenders.
  • Saudi Arabia : Time for accountability, organised by the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, to take place on 4 March.
  • Film screening of the Long Haul: a documentary tribute to human rights activist and professor Sir Nigel Rodley, organised by the International Commission of Jurists and the Permanent Mission of the UK. It will take place on 7 March from 13:00 to 15:00.
  • South Sudan: No sustainable peace without justice, organised by DefendDefenders. It will highlight ongoing grave violations in South Sudan despite the signing of the Revitalised Peace Agreement, lack of domestic accountability, and the need to renew the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights (CoHR) in South Sudan. It will take place on 8 March from 13:00-14:00 in Room XXIV (time and location TBC).
  • Human rights in Myanmar, organised by Forum Asia, will take place on 11 March at 16:00 (time and location TBC). Defenders from Myanmar will present their perspectives on the next steps the Human Rights Council should take to ensure justice and accountability for mass atrocity crimes, to address root causes, and provide support for victims.
  • Human rights in Malaysia, organised by Forum Asia, will take place on 13 March at 13:00 (time and location TBC). Following Malaysia’s UPR in November 2018, civil society from the country will suggest steps for the government to implement its UPR recommendations, while engaging with civil society and the national human rights institution in the process.

Read here ISHR’s recommendations on the key issues that are or should be on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council in 2019. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/09/ishr-sets-out-the-priorities-for-the-human-rights-council-in-2019/]

If you want to stay up-to-date: Follow @ISHRglobal and #HRC40 on Twitter, and look out for our Human Rights Council Monitor.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc40-key-issues-agenda-march-2019-session-0

ISHR sets out the priorities for the Human Rights Council in 2019

February 9, 2019

On 28 January 2019 ISHR presented a blueprint for States with recommendations to some of the key issues the Human Rights Council should address in 2019. 

In 2018, the Council adopted some landmark decisions

  • an independent investigative mechanism on Myanmar
  • Yemen, renewing the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts
  • Burundi, extending the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry.

At the same time, several situations of gross rights violations escaped Council scrutiny for political reasons.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/04/general-assemblys-3rd-committee-concludes-2018-session/]

The annual “High Level Segment” in March 2019 is a critical opportunity to set the agenda for the year. The Human Rights Council’s three regular sessions in March, June/July and September are further opportunities to advance priorities.

Here is ISHR’s checklist on the human rights situations and issues which should be advanced in 2019.

States should commit to strengthening the Council by demonstrating leadership, principled action and sustained follow through.

All regional groups presented the same number of candidates as seats for the 2018 Council elections and several States with terrible human rights records and with poor records of cooperation with UN mechanisms were elected, turning the elections into more of an appointment process, and going against the vision of the Council’s founding document.

States should collectively express concern about China’s failure to uphold human rights principles and protect the rights of its citizens, especially ethnic Uyghurs and Tibetans and those involved in the defence of human rights. China’s rejection of critical dialogue and universal principles is especially worrying as the Chinese government becomes increasingly active in the Council – a space dedicated to those same values.

States should also collectively press for the immediate and unconditional release of detained women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. If the international community is serious about contributing to advancing women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, it should recognise Saudi women human rights defenders as agents of change and urge the Saudi authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee a safe and enabling environment for them to continue their vital work.

States should also initiate Council action to address recent cases of reprisals in Egypt as reported by the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing after her visit in September 2018. These attacks come amidst a context of wide-scale repression against civil society through intimidation, arbitrary arrests, unfair prosecutions and travel bans.

States should collectively denounce the ongoing judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders in Bahrain, including reprisals for engaging or attempting to engage with UN mechanisms. As a minimum, States should call on the Bahraini authorities to immediately release all those detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, such as Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.

At the 40th session:

The Council will consider a resolution on the situation of human rights defenders working on rights related to land and environment. ISHR calls on States to address the particular threats and attacks against this group of defenders, in particular the specific risks faced by women human rights defenders, to combat impunity for attacks against them, and ensure full civil society participation in development and the management of natural resources. The draft resolution should call on States who prioritise the protection of human rights defenders to condition their provision of diplomatic support to business – such as export credit guarantees and trade support – on companies’ commitment to respect, consult and protect defenders. ..The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders will present his report on the situation of women human rights defenders. States should publicly recognise the specific risks and threats women defenders face and commit to taking further measures to enhance their protection, underline the legitimacy of their work, their specific protection needs and adequate remedies to the specific violations they face.

At the 41st session:

Thanks to the sustained efforts by civil society and supportive UN Member States, the mandate of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) was established in 2016. At the 41st session, ISHR urges States to renew the mandate and ensure that it is not weakened, so that it continues its vital work in capturing good practices and assisting States in ending discrimination and violence based on SOGI. The mandate continues to work with a diverse range of States from all geographical regions. Defenders from across the globe have affirmed that the mandate has contributed to their protection and recognition of their work. ..The Council will also consider a resolution on migrants and human rights. States should ensure that the text reiterates their obligations to support and not restrict defenders’ in their vital work and to protect migrant rights defenders in the face of rising intolerance, xenophobia and illiberalism. ISHR recalls Principle 18, from the OHCHR Principles and Guidelines on the human rights protection of migrants in vulnerable situations, which sets out measures States can take to respect and support the activities of migrant rights defenders.

At the 42nd session:

Human rights defenders must be able to access the UN freely and safely so that the UN can do its crucial work of monitoring countries’ compliance with human rights obligations and protecting victims from abuses. At the 42nd session in September 2019, States should not miss the opportunity to cite specific cases of reprisals at the second interactive dialogue on the Secretary-General’s annual report on reprisals….Finally, the accessibility of the Council to rights holders, victims and defenders is both a key contributor to, and indicator of, the Council’s relevance and success.  As discussions on enhancing the efficiency of the Council resume, States should continue to support and guarantee that any proposed measures do not restrict or limit civil society participation at the Council.

Tang Jitian receives his French Republic Human Rights prize in Beijing

January 31, 2019

On 10 December, 2018, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (La Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme) has awarded the annual French Republic Human Rights Prize to six personalities or organizations that have distinguished themselves in their country for the defense and promotion of human rights, and Chinese human rights lawyer Tang Jitian was one of them. He was unable to travel to France to receive the prize. On January 14, 2019, the French Ambassador to China, Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, presented him the award in Beijing. For more on this another awards: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/prix-des-droits-de-lhomme-de-la-republique-francaise.

Excerpts from his Acceptance Speech:

Ladies and Gentlemen: 

……Since entering the legal profession, especially after coming to Beijing in 2007, I was determined to use the law to help those who had suffered injustices. In addition to handling human rights cases, I also participated extensively in social actions, one of which was an effort in 2008-09, together with a cohort of lawyers to promote direct elections of the Beijing Lawyers’ Association. This action infuriated the Chinese government, and in April 2010, my license to practice law was revoked. Even though I suffered this blow of losing my normal legal practitioner’s identity, it didn’t stop me from engaging in rights defense work. On the contrary, I threw myself into the work even more actively, including the struggle for lawyers’ own rights and interests. And despite having suffered numerous rounds of forced disappearance and arbitrary detention, accompanied by torture, I nonetheless still had the same intention as before –– to continue to be active in the field of rights defense in China.

Although I’ve been restricted from exiting the country for nearly 10 years, making it impossible for me to fully communicate and work together with the outside world, my view was not completely limited. I still have friends from certain countries who have facilitated my work to varying degrees.

……..Contemporary mainland China has reached a critical juncture: whether to embrace civilization or choose barbarism; whether to practice universal values ​​or push the rules of the jungle; whether to preserve and strengthen the outdated totalitarianism or move toward a new democratic politics –– there is not much time left to waver.  

As a member of civil society, I look forward to China getting on the right track as soon as possible, but those selfish and greedy officials in the government are trying to pull the people back into barbarism. It is difficult to imagine what things would be like to have a China with 1.3 billion people suspended alone for a long period of time outside the civilized world: the deteriorating human rights situation in mainland China is not only a nightmare for the Chinese, but will also be a misfortune for all of humanity.

In the face of this grim situation, groups upon groups of Chinese people eager to live with dignity have fought for their rights and interests in various ways, so that future generations can live in a normal environment, and the Chinese nation will not become a burden to the world. Human rights defenders, including human rights lawyers, are to some extent shouldering a historical responsibility. As one of them, I hope they will receive more understanding, attention, support, and assistance from the international community.

……I will work together with other human rights defenders, from a new starting point, to make a due contribution to the protection of human rights and the advancement of the rule of law...

 

https://chinachange.org/2019/01/30/acceptance-speech-for-the-2018-french-republic-human-rights-prize/

Three NGOs urge you to nominate Ilham Tohti for the Rafto Prize

January 29, 2019

Photo courtesy of the Radio Free Asia

On 28 January, 2019, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and Norwegian Uyghur Committee (NUK) announced that they have nominated the Chinese human rights defender Ilham Tohti for the Rafto Prize. With the completion of five years of his arrest, the organisations believe his peaceful trajectory in defense of the freedom and fully enjoyment of human rights by the Uyghur population in China is deserving of this prestigious prize. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/15/today-ilham-tohti-completes-his-fourth-year-in-chinese-detention/.

[Ilham Tohti served as a professor of economics at Minzu University in Beijing where he specialized in research focused on Uyghur-Han relations, China’s ethnic policies and East Turkistan. Alongside his scholarship and teaching, Ilham is revered for establishing and maintaining Uyghur Online, a website dedicated to promoting Uyghur human rights and improved relations between Uyghur and Han Chinese people. Professor Tohti criticised oppressive policies against Uyghurs and wrote extensively on constructive approaches to overcome unequal treatment between ethnic groups. Notably, he called for dialogue and reconciliation, using his web platform as the primary vehicle. For his efforts, he was arrested by Chinese authorities on January 15, 2014. Despite the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention finding his detention to be arbitrary in March 2014, Tohti was sentenced to life in prison in September of that year on charges of “separatism” after just a two-day trial. The legal process involving Tohti was met with significant issues throughout. His lawyers were unable to meet him for six months following the initial arrest, his defense team was not provided with complete evidence by the prosecutor, nor were their requested witnesses allowed to testify during the trial. Ilham has been serving his life sentence since December 2014 at Urumqi’s No. 1 Prison. Since then, he has been allowed very few visits from his family. Complicating this has been his continued detention in Urumqi, despite his family living in Beijing – a likely punitive move from Beijing. ChinaChange has noted that Tohti has been held in solitary confinement until at least early 2016 and has been denied the right to communicate with family and friends aside from minimal visits. The WUC gathered 132 scholars and 19 civil society organisations in an open letter to urge the Chinese government to release Ilham Tohti from his arbitrary detention of the five-year anniversary of his arrest in January 2019.]  

In 2014 Mr. Tohti was awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. On October 11, 2016, Tohti was awarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. In 2017 he received the Weimar Prize (https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/05/uyghur-human-rights-defender-ilham-tohti-wins-also-weimar-human-rights-prize/). He was also nominated for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in 2016. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/15/martin-ennals-award-2016-relive-the-ceremony-in-13-minutes-or-in-full/

The WUC,the UNPO and the NUK encourage scholars and organisations to join in nominating Ilham Tohti. The deadline for nominations is Friday, February 1st. As the situation in East Turkistan continues to deteriorate, with more than one million innocent Uyghurs arbitrarily detained in internment camps and the Uyghur people facing unparalleled repression, Ilham Tohti’s life and work stands as an inspiration to continue the peaceful struggle for peace, understanding

https://unpo.org/article/21350

 

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”.