Posts Tagged ‘Hong Kong’

UK criticised for selling spyware and wiretaps to 17 repressive regimes including Saudi Arabia and China

July 13, 2020

Jon Stone in the Independent of 13 july 2020 wrote about the UK Government being urged to explain £75m exports to countries rated ‘not free’. The British government is providing more than a dozen repressive regimes around the world with wiretaps, spyware and other telecommunications interception equipment they could use to spy on dissidents, public records show. Despite rules saying the UK should not export security goods to countries that might use them for internal repression, ministers have signed off more than £75m in such exports over the past five years to states rated “not free” by the NGO Freedom House.

The 17 countries include China, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, as well as the United Arab Emirates, which was the biggest recipient of licences totalling £11.5m alone since 2015….One such beneficiary of the UK’s exports is Hong Kong, which had a £2m shipment approved last year despite ongoing repression of pro-democracy protests. The Philippines, where police extrajudicial killings are rampant, has also provided steady business for British firms hawking surveillance systems.,,

A government spokesperson said blandly : “The government takes its export responsibilities seriously and assesses all export licences in accordance with strict licensing criteria. We will not issue any export licences where to do so would be inconsistent with these criteria.” But Oliver Feeley-Sprague, Amnesty International UK’s programme director for military, security and police affairs, said the UK did not seem to be undertaking proper risk assessments when selling such equipment and said the government’s controls were becoming “notorious” for their “faulty decision-making”

With numerous human rights defenders arrested and jailed in countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey in the past five years, there’s a greater need than ever for the UK to be absolutely scrupulous in assessing the risk of UK telecoms technology being used unlawfully against human rights activists, journalists, and peaceful opposition figures.

“It’s just not clear that the UK is undertaking proper risk assessments when selling this equipment, and it’s not clear whether UK officials are making any effort to track how the equipment is used in one, two or three years’ time.

This week international trade secretary Liz Truss announced the UK would be resuming arms exports to Saudi Arabia, after a court had previously ordered that they were suspended. The government said it had reviewed claims that Saudi forces in Yemen had breached international humanitarian law and said any possible breaches were “isolated incidents” because they had happened in different places and different ways.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said the sale of the spying equipment raised “serious questions and concerns”.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/14/beyond-whatsapp-and-nso-how-human-rights-defenders-are-targeted-by-cyberattacks/

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/uk-spyware-wiretaps-saudi-arabia-china-bahrain-uae-human-rights-a9613206.html

UN experts address 3 big ones: USA, China and India

June 27, 2020

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Joint statements by groups of UN experts are becoming more frequent, with at least three this month. When it comes to major powers like the USA, China and India – who are rather sensitive when criticised – there must be safety in numbers:

Addressing the USA after George Floyd..

On 5 June 2020 nearly 30 independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council called for the United States to reform its criminal justice system in the wake of a recent spate of killings of African Americans, including at the hands of the police. In their statement they urged the US authorities to address systemic racism and racial bias, and to conduct independent investigations into cases of excessive use of force by police officers.

The UN human rights experts charged that these killings involved impunity, disregard or depravity toward human life, and the use of public spaces to assert racial control, with each characteristic of a modern-day lynching. “The latest videos to surface showing white men chase, corner, and execute a young man who was out jogging, or showing an officer kneeling with his weight on a man’s neck for eight minutes shock the conscience and evoke the very terror that the lynching regime in the United States was intended to inspire”, they said.

With millions of Americans taking to the streets, the experts also expressed concern about police response to these protests. They said demonstrations have been marked by violence, arbitrary arrest, militarisation and the detention of thousands of protesters. Journalists of colour have also been targeted and detained, some of whom have faced violence and harassment.

UN Experts Urge India To Release Protest Leaders

On 26 June 2020 13 UN experts jointly called on India to immediately release human rights defenders who have been arrested for protesting against changes to the nation’s citizenship laws. “These defenders, many of them students, appear to have been arrested simply because they exercised their right to denounce and protest against the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act), and their arrest seems clearly designed to send a chilling message to India’s vibrant civil society that criticism of government policies will not be tolerated,” the experts said.

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/05/indias-overblown-notion-of-sovereignty-no-to-un-advice-for-supreme-court/]

Authorities should immediately release all human rights defenders who are currently being held in pre-trial detention without sufficient evidence, often simply on the basis of speeches they made criticising the discriminatory nature of the CAA,” they said. (Meeran Haider, Gulfisha Fatima, Safoora Zargar, Asif Iqbal Tanha, Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal, Khalid Saifi, Shifa Ur Rehman, Dr. Kafeel Khan, Sharjeel Imam, Akhil Gogoi.)

The experts also highlighted their concern that the authorities’ response to the protests seemed discriminatory. It appears they have not similarly investigated allegations of incitement to hatred and violence made by CAA supporters, some of whom are reported to have chanted “shoot the traitors” at counter-rallies.

UN experts call for decisive measures to protect ‘fundamental freedoms’ in China

On 26 June 2020 almost 50 UN independent experts on Friday to express their continuing alarm, urging the country to “abide by its international legal obligations”.

After having “repeatedly communicated” their concerns, they highlighted the repression of protests and democracy advocacy in the Hong Kong; impunity for excessive use of force by police; the alleged use of chemical agents against protesters; the alleged sexual harassment and assault of women protesters in police stations; together with the alleged harassment of health care workers.

The experts also raised their “grave concerns” on issues ranging from the collective repression of specific communities – “especially religious and ethnic minorities, in Xinjiang and Tibet” – to the detention of lawyers and prosecution – in addition to disappearances – of human rights defenders across the country. .

They urged China to invite civil and political rights monitors to conduct independent missions “in an environment of confidentiality, respect for human rights defenders, and full avoidance of reprisals” and encouraged the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to urgently monitor Chinese human rights practices. 

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1065722

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO2006/S00162/un-experts-urge-india-to-release-protest-leaders.htm

https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1067312

Gui Minhai: 10 years jail sentence in China

February 25, 2020

Members of the pro-democracy Civic party carry portraits of Gui Minhai and Lee Bo during a protest in Hong Kong.
Members of the pro-democracy Civic party carry portraits of Gui Minhai and Lee Bo during a protest in Hong Kong. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

A court in Ningbo said on Tuesday that Gui had been found guilty and would be stripped of political rights for five years in addition to his prison term. The brief statement said Gui had pleaded guilty and would not be appealing against his case. The Swedish foreign minister, Ann Linde, told Radio Sweden: “We have always been clear that we demand that Gui Minhai be released so he is able to reunite with his daughter, his family and that demand remains…We demand immediate access to our Swedish citizen in order to give him all consular support that he is entitled to.

Gui appears to have been tried and convicted in secret, denying him any chance of a fair trial,” said Patrick Poon, a China researcher at Amnesty International, calling the verdict “deplorable” and based on unsubstantiated charges.

For previous posts on this shocking story:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/10/sweden-charges-ex-ambassador-to-china-over-pressure-on-daughter-of-gui-minhai/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/19/sweden-defies-chinese-threats-after-award-to-book-publisher-gui-minhai/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/21/confessions-abound-on-chinese-television-first-gui-minhai-and-now-peter-dahlin/

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https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/25/gui-minhai-detained-hong-kong-bookseller-jailed-for-10-years-in-china

Human Rights Foundation announces its first 10 Freedom Fellows

May 22, 2019

Yesterday I referred to the new look of the Human Rights Foundation [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/21/human-rights-foundation-uses-2019-oslo-freedom-forum-for-rebranding/], here is a substantive new proframme. On 21 May 2019 the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) announced the creation of the Freedom Fellowship, a program that awards 10 human rights defenders, social entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders from authoritarian countries around the world with the unique opportunity to increase the impact of their work. HRF is partnering with the Center for Applied Nonviolent Tactics and Strategies (CANVAS), founded by Srdja Popovic. The fellows will work with HRF staff and a team of specialists to improve leadership, movement building, fundraising, marketing, and digital security.
The first ‘class’ comprises:

  • Rania Aziz , Sudanese activist organizing professional and youth groups in the country against the dictatorship of Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir. She is part of the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), an outlawed group of unions currently leading protests in the country.
  • Fred Bauma. Congolese human rights activist also known as “Congo’s Gandhi”. He is the leader of the pro-democracy youth group LUCHA, which advocates for nonviolent, community-level change and governmental reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[ see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/11/30/amnesty-internationals-annual-write-for-rights-campaign-focuses-on-freedom-of-expression/]
  • Vanessa Berhe, Eritrean free-speech and democracy activist. She is the founder of One Day Seyoum, a human rights organization that campaigns for the release of jailed Eritrean journalist Seyoum Tsehaye, and raises awareness around a continued crackdown on democratic ideals in Eritrea.
  • Andrei Bystrov, lawyer, historian and democratic activist from Moscow. He is a co-founder of the December 5 Party, a pro-democracy political party that was born out of the 2011 anti-Putin protests.
  • Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal is a student activist, publisher, and author who advocates for education reform in Thailand. He founded Education for Liberation of Siam, a student group that challenges the Thai military junta’s unjust actions in the country’s education system.
  • Rodrigo Diamanti, Venezuelan human rights activist and nonviolence expert. He founded the international NGO, Un Mundo Sin Mordaza, which has coordinated creative protests against Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorship in more than 52 countries.
  • Edipcia Dubón, Nicaraguan pro-democracy and women’s rights advocate. She is the coordinator of Dialogue of Women for Democracy, a think tank that promotes open discussions about the challenges faced by women in Nicaragua.
  • Asma Khalifa, Libyan activist and researcher who has worked on human rights, women’s rights, and youth empowerment since 2011. She is the co-founder of Tamazight Women’s Movement, an organization working on gender equality and research on the indigenous women of Libya and North Africa.
  • Farida Nabourema, Togolese writer and democracy activist who began her career in activism when she was 13 years old. She co-founded the Faure Must Go movement, a hallmark of the Togolese struggle against Faure Gnassingbé’s oppressive rule.
  • Johnson Yeung, Hong Kong human rights advocate who works on freedom of assembly and expression, protection to HRDs, and capacity building to right-based CSOs. He is the chair of the board of the Hong Kong Civil Hub, which produces regular briefings on Hong Kong shrinking civic space, and builds solidarity around international rule of law and human rights communities.


In partnership with CANVAS, HRF launched the Freedom Fellowship in 2018 with a pilot opportunity for Jhanisse Vaca Daza, a civil society activist from Bolivia. During her Freedom Fellowship experience, Vaca Daza co-founded the Bolivian movement: Ríos de Pie (Standing Rivers), which has quickly gained a national following, becoming one of the leading nonviolent resistance movements in response to Evo Morales’ authoritarian regime. Vaca Daza will provide her insights from the past year as the manager for the Fellowship. “This is a truly diverse class of fellows, and they are going to learn as much from each other as from their mentors,” said Vaca Daza. “Anyone running a non-profit or civil society organization or start-up needs help and guidance with personal leadership, movement building, marketing and media strategy, fundraising, and digital security. My own experience was transformative, and I’m looking forward to bringing world-class expertise in each of these areas to 10 new Fellows.”

The Fellows will meet one another as a group for the first time at this year’s Oslo Freedom Forum, which will be held from 27-29 May in Norway. There will be special programming curated to begin their Freedom Fellowship experience starting May 25. If you would like more information about the program, please contact: jhanisse@hrf.org.

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YouTube human rights news channel ‘Just Asia’ deserves more viewers

May 8, 2019

As founding video producer of Just Asia, Amila Sampath, 30, gathers film clips and news snippets from around the region. His sources include activists, lawyers and NGOs, and the show, uploaded on Fridays, is anchored by university student volunteers. Sampath has produced more than 250 episodes of Just Asia, but getting audiences to take an interest in the protection and well-being of fellow human beings has not been easy. He is disappointed the show is not more widely viewed. “It is difficult to get people to watch human rights stories,” Sampath says. “They’re not music videos, but I just have to keep trying.”

Sampath’s aim is to broadcast regional human rights abuses to a global audience. Photo: Dickson Lee
Sampath’s aim is to broadcast regional human rights abuses to a global audience. Photo: Dickson Lee 

Just Asia he puts together with a skeletal crew comprising himself as producer, cameraman and director, and colleague Meryam Dabhoiwala, who writes the scripts and edits. Their studio is a simple office in Ho Man Tin, Kowloon, with a green screen background. Each week he compiles five regional stories and enlists the help of university students to shoot the episodes and edit the videos.

Hong Kong student volunteer Alexandra Leung presents an episode of Just Asia, a weekly human rights news programme on YouTube produced by the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission.

Hong Kong student volunteer Alexandra Leung presents an episode of Just Asia, a weekly human rights news programme on YouTube produced by the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission.

One volunteer is Alexandra Leung Chui-yan, 22, who will be graduating from the School of Communication at Hong Kong Baptist University this month. On August 17, 2017, Leung was in Barcelona, walking along La Rambla boulevard, when a car ploughed into a crowd. The terrorist attack killed 13 people and injured more than 130, including Leung. In the ensuing chaos she was trampled, resulting in a broken toe and fractured knees. Leung has since undergone surgery, but is still not completely healed. A few months after the incident she began volunteering for Just Asia as a trainee, learning how to read the news in front of a camera and how to pronounce Southeast Asian names.

Find out more about Just Asia at www.alrc.asia/justasia or www.humanrights.asia

Flash mob in support of Sotoudeh in Hong Kong concert

April 2, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activists ‘flash mob’ Iranian concert to protest jailing of rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh

A Hong Kong concert organised by the Iranian Consulate on 25 March 2019 was met with protesters who decried the jailing of human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. [See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/12/iran-cracks-down-on-nasrin-sotoudeh-and-other-human-rights-defenders/]

Around 20 activists staged a silent protest at the City Hall foyer, just before the start of a concert titled “Songs of Persia.” Venue staff did not intervene, as the protesters revealed black t-shirts stating “Free Nasrin Sotoudeh” The event was presented by the Iranian Consulate as part of a week-long cultural celebration.

We revealed our t-shirts in a quiet, dignified way, in the lobby… I would say everyone who went into the concert saw our protest,” one of the organisers – who did not wish to be named – told HKFP. She added that concertgoers took photos, and many already were familiar with Sotoudeh’s plight. One attendee told the group that Sotoudeh was his lawyer.

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/03/25/just-pictures-protesters-decry-jailing-iranian-rights-lawyer-nasrin-sotoudeh-hong-kong-concert/

Human Rights Day 2018 – anthology part III (the last)

December 18, 2018

Mopping up after International Human Rights Day 2018 here six more ‘events’:

For part I, see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/10/human-rights-day-2018-just-an-anthology/

For part II, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/11/human-rights-day-2018-anthology-part-ii/.

 

  1. Tibetans in Sydney celebrate Nobel Peace Prize Day and Int’l Human Rights Day.
    Tibetans in in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, observe an official function to mark the 29th anniversary of the conferment of Nobel Peace Prize on His Holiness the Dalai Lama, on December 15, 2018. Photo: TPI/Yeshe Choesang

Tibetans in Sydney celebrate Nobel Peace Prize Day and Int’l Human Rights Day

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2018/12/16/best-human-rights-books-october-december-2018/

https://www.adventistreview.org/for-people-of-faith-70-year-old-human-rights-document-holds-special-meaning

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/lord-ahmad-speech-at-amnesty-international-annual-human-rights-day-reception

https://blogs.library.duke.edu/blog/2018/12/12/duke-announces-winner-of-2018-juan-e-mendez-human-rights-book-award/

https://menafn.com/1097819272/Somaliland-HRC-Commemorates-Human-Rights-Day-2018-In-Burao

New NGO launched: International Human Rights Council – Hong Kong (IHRC-HK) but lacks detail

May 8, 2018

On 8 May 2018 a new NGO was launched: the “International Human Rights Council – Hong Kong” (IHRC-HK) based in Hong Kong . The geographical gambit is not totally clear but the press release speaks of the “active participation of the dedicated human rights defenders from the various countries in Asia, specifically from the region of South Asia”, while a footnote states that the IHRC-HK is a “regional human rights” organisation.

Mr. Baseer Naveed, the executive director, while announcing the formation of the IHRC-HK, stated, that it is to “Articulate the voice of the victims, place it in their proper human and legal context, examine the justice delivery system with a view to its reform and the enforcement of the rule of law both for punitive and preventive action”. The IHRC-HK says it will focus on cases of individuals that are subjected to violations by the State and their functionaries exposing also the institutions of justice which have become the tools of injustice and repression. These can be followed by Urgent Responses, Statements, and Reports for sessions of the UN Human Rights Commission and different stakeholders. The purpose of Urgent Response is: To expose the authorities that have turned a blind eye to abuses, press for immediate legal action against perpetrators, redress to the victims and to mobilize civil society response by way of signatures.

The new NGO claims a very broad mission: “the strengthening of democracy and human rights, Constitutional Rights, Legal Empowerment, particularly among Women, Minorities and persons with Special Needs by campaigning for the establishment of the Rule of Law and the strengthening of the institutions of justice…..The IHRC-HK will work for justice, peace by promoting human dignity and equality within the community and in the State institutions. Wherever possible seek ways to promote Sustainable Development thereby guaranteeing the socio-economic rights of the people.

There is preciously little information on the new organisation’s effective capacity, from where it gets its funding and how it distinguishes itself from existing NGOs, such as the Asian Human Rights Commission or Forum-Asia. Time will tell.

http://ihrchk.org/2018/05/08/world-the-international-human-rights-council-hong-kong-ihrc-hk-launched/

Anson Chan, Hong Kong human rights defender, is winner of 2018 O’Connor Justice Prize

February 20, 2018

Anson Chan, a longtime Hong Kong dignitary and fierce advocate of human rights and the rule of law, was awarded the O’Connor Justice Prize in Arizona. Hope more in this and other international human rights awards, see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/o-connor-justice-prize.

I am deeply honored to be awarded the 2018 O’Connor Justice Prize and to join the company of three most distinguished predecessors,” said Chan, the fourth recipient of the award. “The values embodied within the spirit of this prize, namely advancement of the rule of law, justice and human rights, are particularly close to my heart, and it is a privilege to be associated with an award that celebrates Justice O’Connor’s extraordinary legacy.”

Known as “Hong Kong’s conscience” for her decades of devotion to social justice and democracy, Chan recounted how she and O’Connor had blazed similar trails that broke through gender barriers. While O’Connor was the first woman to serve as a state Senate majority leader and first to join the U.S. Supreme Court, Chan was the first woman to be appointed head of a Hong Kong government department, first female policy secretary and the first woman — as well as the first ethnic Chinese citizen — to be appointed head of the civil service.

Chan expressed concerns about Hong Kong’s independence, describing increasing oversight by the Chinese government. She pointed to the changes that have taken place in the two decades since the transfer of sovereignty from British rule in 1997, a transition that Chan helped oversee in her role as chief secretary for administration.

 

O'Connor Justice Prize advisory board

The O’Connor Justice Prize advisory board with the 2018 O’Connor Justice Prize recipient, the Honorable Anson Chan (center).

Chan’s words drew a response the next day from the Hong Kong government. In a release, the government said, “Statements made arbitrarily to undermine the rule of law and our well-recognized reputation in this regard is not conducive to Hong Kong’s progress.

 

https://asunow.asu.edu/20180219-‘hong-kong’s-conscience’-anson-chan-accepts-o’connor-justice-prize-warns-china’s

26 June: Torture issues in Hong Kong and Thailand

June 26, 2017

This week, to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, celebrated annually on 26 June, Just Asia has a special report on Hong Kong’s plan [not sure but still…] to withdraw from the UN Convention against Torture.  The reason for such a withdrawal is a misguided attempt to address the rise in torture protection claimants in Hong Kong and block “fake” refugees, as well as solve the issue of illegal workers. In the video report Just Asia speaks to three prominent persons in the city to discuss their views. Puja Kapai is the Director of Hong Kong University’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law; Mark Daly is a human rights lawyer with Daly and Associates; as is Patricia Ann Ho. The three discuss how such a withdrawal will impact Hong Kong’s international standing, Hong Kong’s human rights protections, and whether it will truly make a difference to the city’s numerous torture claimants. [for other Just Asia posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/just-asia/]

In the same context of anti-torture work in Asia, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists issued today a statement calling on Thailand to finally follow through on commitments to prevent torture and ill-treatment. They regret repeated delays to the finalisation and passage of Thailand’s Draft Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act……Similarly, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists urge Thailand to move ahead with its commitment to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which obligates authorities to establish a National Preventive Mechanism.. as well as to allow such visits by an international expert body. Such independent scrutiny is critical to prevent torture and other ill-treatment, including through implementing their detailed recommendations based on visits. Authorities should also act immediately on the commitment made at Thailand’s Universal Periodic Review before the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2016, to inspect places of detention in line with the revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules….

Acts of torture and other ill-treatment in Thailand have rarely been investigated in a prompt, impartial, independent and efficient manner, as required by the Convention against Torture, and perpetrators of such acts have seldom been held to account. Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists urge authorities to ensure that such investigations are undertaken into all credible reports of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The scope, methods and findings of such investigations should be made public. Where sufficient, admissible evidence is gathered, perpetrators should be prosecuted in fair trials in civilian courts.

Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists also notes with concern the criminal prosecution or threats of prosecution—often under criminal defamation provisions—of victims of torture, their family members, and human rights defenders who have raised allegations of torture, including with a view to seeking redress. The organizations urge that such threats, investigations, charges, prosecution or other proceedings against these persons be are withdrawn and charges dropped, and that authorities take steps to create an enabling environment for freedom of expression in which people are able to seek redress and raise concerns about torture publicly without fear of reprisal or recrimination….

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/thailand/]

http://reliefweb.int/report/thailand/thailand-amnesty-international-and-international-commission-jurists-call-thailand