Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights Foundation’

UN representative in South Korea sees balloon actions as freedom of expression

June 29, 2020

The World Tribune of 28 June 2020 reports on the fight sparked by North Korean defectors sending balloons with leaflets to their former homeland, which has brought both Koreas once again to the brink of war. Now Signe Poulsen, head of the Seoul office of the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, has stated that sending the leaflets is an exercise of the right to freedom of expression.

In this April 29, 2016 file photo, members of a South Korean civic group send leaflets denouncing the North Korean regime in Tanhyeon, Paju, near the North Korean border. / Korea Times photo by Choi Won-Suk

Both the North and South Korean governments have threatened the defectors in the South who have sought to counter communist “fake news” by sending real news North over the DMZ. The leaflets also often contain U.S. one-dollar bills and USB memory sticks meant to encourage North Koreans to pick up the leaflets.

Now the defectors have been targeted by hastily-passed legislation forbidding the practice. Poulsen made the remarks amid heightening tensions on the Korean Peninsula after the North threatened to retaliate against the South for what it called Seoul’s “connivance” at the floating of anti-Pyongyang materials in large balloons.

The government of South Korean President Moon Jae-In, sought to legislate a ban on leafleting and filed a criminal complaints against two defector groups who carry out such launches, the Korea Times reported on June 23. The provincial government of Gyeonggi, located near the border with the North and where a lot of leafleting takes places, issued an administrative order last week banning the entry into border areas to fly leaflets.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/21/the-interview-sequel-plays-at-the-korean-border/

and

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balloon_propaganda_campaigns_in_Korea

https://www.worldtribune.com/un-official-upholds-defectors-freedom-of-expression-under-attack-by-both-koreas/

Human Rights Foundation starts interview series: “Dissidents and Dictators” with Srdja Popovic

June 23, 2020

Human Rights Foundation


The first episode features Serbian protest organizer and peaceful revolutionary Srdja Popovic.

In just a few years, Srdja transformed from a college student in a band to the leader of a national movement that ended the fearsome dictatorship of Slobodan Milošević with clever tactics and movement building, all without a single shot fired. After the tyrant’s fall, Srdja went on to serve in Serbia’s National Assembly and later launched an organization called CANVAS that teaches the art of protest to democracy activists around the world. He is the author of Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World.

HRF chief strategy officer Alex Gladstein (@Gladstein) sat down with Srdja to discuss: How do you scale a movement of one up to millions of people? How do you overcome a regime that holds all the power and weapons? Why are peaceful revolutions much more successful than violent ones? Why are street movements like start-ups? Is it possible to sustain a movement during a global pandemic? How are protest movements around the world reacting to their new twin enemies, the coronavirus and the rise of authoritarianism?

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/22/human-rights-foundation-announces-its-first-10-freedom-fellows/]

You can listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and you can watch the video versions on Youtube

Policy response by human rights to COVID-19: the Human Rights Foundation

April 5, 2020

Further in the series of posts on this topic: On 13-14 April 2020, the New York based Human Rights Foundation will host COVIDCon, a virtual Oslo Freedom Forum event focused on how tyranny sparked and is exploiting the novel coronavirus pandemic to crack down on civil liberties. For earlier posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/covid-19/

This two-day event, open to global audiences, will feature presentations and panels about the current pandemic and its relationship to state censorship, disinformation, surveillance, and the future of civil liberties. COVIDCon sessions will showcase the difference in the responses of authoritarian regimes and democratic governments to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Confirmed speakers include former Chinese prisoner of conscience Yang Jianli; Iranian journalist and human rights activist Masih Alinejad; Russian democracy advocate Garry Kasparov; recently expelled Wall Street Journal deputy China bureau chief Josh Chin; entrepreneur and angel investor Naval Ravikant; Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong; futurist and “After On” author Rob Reid; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Applebaum; Ideas Beyond Borders’ Melissa Chen; China-U.S. expert Kyle Bass; and others.

Day 1 of the conference will focus on how tyranny sparked the pandemic. Sessions will include:

  • Censorship in China: The Pandemic Spark
  • How Democracies and Dictatorships are Reacting to the Virus
  • China: Savior or Culprit?
  • Reporting on COVID-19: State Censorship and Surveillance
  • What the Pandemic has Revealed about Chinese Economic Dominance
  • The Increasing Risk of Synthetic Biology

Day 2 of the conference will focus on how tyranny exploits the pandemic. Sessions will include:

  • Iran’s Criminal Negligence: COVID-19’s Gateway to the Middle East
  • Pandemic Power Grab: State Abuse of Emergency Laws
  • Trampling on the Rule of Law and Undermining Public Health
  • Keeping Protest Movements Alive During The Pandemic
  • How the Pandemic Changes the Relationship Between Citizen, Technology, and State

REGISTER

https://mailchi.mp/dcbac9797509/authoritarian-regimes-ill-equipped-for-public-health-emergencies-287692?e=f80cec329e

In Memory of Tunisian human rights defender Lina Ben Mhenni

January 29, 2020

On 28 January 2020 The Human Rights Foundation in New York expressed its sadness at the passing of Tunisian activist, journalist, and educator Lina Ben Mhenni, after a long battle with a chronic illness (1983-2020).

Lina was a force who fought tenaciously until her last breath. She fought censorship, corruption, and human rights abuses, all while grappling with serious illness. But nothing stood in her way. Her voice and cause will resonate with generations to come,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “She will forever be an inspiration to all of us at HRF and in the Oslo Freedom Forum community to never give up even in the darkest moments. We will truly miss our beloved friend Lina.

Lina was one of the only Tunisians to criticize the repressive government openly on international broadcasts before the Jasmine Revolution began in 2011. She is often described as one of the bravest bloggers in the world, whose work was instrumental in documenting, informing, and mobilizing citizens during the Revolution. Lina’s impactful achievements led her to be nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. She authored and published a book the same year entitled, “Tunisian Girl: A Blogger for an Arab Spring.” Much of her writing was focused on freedom of expression and rights of women and students in Tunisia.

 

 

Lina’s life experiences went beyond her 36 years. Many people know about Lina – whether through the media or different social platforms – but no amount of reporting on her could do justice to the values and principles for which she fought during Tunisia’s era of tyranny and after the Revolution,” said Aymen Zaghdoudi, MENA Legal Advisor at Article 19 in Tunisia. “Lina stood with the weak, the deprived, and the oppressed – even at the expense of her own health – and turned her pain into inspiration and hope for those around her.”

Lina spoke at the 2011 Oslo Freedom Forum, urging the outside world to continue to pay attention to events in Tunisia and other Arab countries where recent revolutions appeared to have ended. Upon joining the HRF community that year, she was actively involved in the discussions unfolding about the Arab Spring.

In recent years, Lina continued to press for human rights and continued democratic reform. In 2016, she started a campaign called “Books to Prison,” to counter extremism within Tunisia’s prisons. She was inspired by her father, who was a political prisoner, and had once told her that prisoners had so little to read to change their minds or be inspired. By November 2019, her campaign had collected more than 45,000 books, helping to free the minds of tens of thousands of people.  Apart from her calls for democratic reform, Lina taught linguistics at a university in Tunisia and was a professional translator. She also brought awareness to the issue of organ donation and after a kidney transplant, amazingly received silver medals in the World Transplant Games.

You can read Lina Ben Mhenni’s blog “A Tunisian Girl” here.

https://mailchi.mp/609e2865ee85/hrf-mourns-the-passing-of-suleiman-bakhit-287648?e=f80cec329e

2019 Nobel Prizes for Peace and Literature: encouragement and disappointment

October 11, 2019

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/07/ethiopia-a-progress-report-by-defenddefenders-made-public-on-7-may/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/08/human-rights-defender-daniel-bekele-now-commissioner-of-the-ethiopian-human-rights-commission/].

Amnesty International’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo said: “This award recognizes the critical work Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has done to initiate human rights reforms in Ethiopia after decades of widespread repression.” Since assuming office in April 2018, it has reformed the security forces, replaced the severely restricting charities and society law, and agreed a peace deal with neighbouring Eritrea to end two decades of hostile relations. He also helped broker an agreement between Sudan’s military leaders and the civilian opposition, bringing an end to months of protests.

However, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s work is far from done. This award should push and motivate him to tackle the outstanding human rights challenges that threaten to reverse the gains made so far. He must urgently ensure that his government addresses the ongoing ethnic tensions that threaten instability and further human rights abuses. He should also ensure that his government revises the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation which continues to be used as a tool of repression, and holds suspected perpetrators of past human rights violations to account. ..“ow more than ever Prime Minister Abiy must fully espouse the principles and values of the Nobel Peace Prize to leave a lasting human rights legacy for his country, the wider region, and the world.”

Interestingly enough on the same day Ethiopian human rights blogger Befeqadu Hailu received the International Writer of Courage award. The Ethiopian human rights blogger who has been jailed four times over his activism has been awarded a literary prize set up in memory of playwright Harold Pinter. The Zone 9 blogging collective, which Hailu founded in 2012 alongside other Ethiopian activists, aims to hold politicians to account and protect the country’s constitution against corruption. He is also the deputy executive editor of Addis Maleda newspaper, a columnist for Deutsche Welle Amharic Service and a part-time programme co-ordinator for the Ethiopian Human Rights Project. Zone 9 bloggers were finalists of the 2016 MEA.

In the meantime the Swedish Nobel Prize Committee for Literature came in for widespread and harsh criticism for its ‘troubling choice’: of Peter Handke. Writers including Salman Rushdie, Hari Kunzru and Slavoj Žižek say the 2019 Nobel laureate ‘combines great insight with shocking ethical blindness’

Austrian author Peter Handk greets the press outside his house in Chaville near Paris, on Thursday.
Austrian author Peter Handke greets the press outside his house in Chaville near Paris, on Thursday after his win. Photograph: François Mori/AP

The Guardian of 10 October writes: “Twenty years before Peter Handke would become a Nobel laureate, he won another title. In 1999, Salman Rushdie named him the runner-up for “International moron of the year” for his “series of impassioned apologias for the genocidal regime of Slobodan Milošević”….The Austrian playwright, whose Slovenian heritage had inspired in him a fervent nationalism during the Balkans war, had publicly suggested that Sarajevo’s Muslims had massacred themselves and blamed the Serbs, and denied the Srebrenica genocide. Seven years after Rushdie’s scorching condemnation, in 2006, he would also attend war criminal Milošević’s funeral….

Handke is a troubling choice for a Nobel committee that is trying to put the prize on track after recent scandals,” said author Hari Kunzru, who has taught the laureate’s work to his students. “He is a fine writer, who combines great insight with shocking ethical blindness.” Kunzru said he believed that Handke would have won the Nobel earlier, “had he not decided to act as a propagandist for the genocidal Milošević regime. He added: “More than ever we need public intellectuals who are able to make a robust defence of human rights in the face of the indifference and cynicism of our political leaders. Handke is not such a person.

Slavoj Žižek, Slovenian philosopher and longtime critic of Handke, told the Guardian: “In 2014, Handke called for the Nobel to be abolished, saying it was a ‘false canonisation’ of literature. The fact that he got it now proves that he was right. This is Sweden today: an apologist of war crimes gets a Nobel prize while the country fully participated in the character assassination of the true hero of our times, Julian Assange. Our reaction should be: not the literature Nobel prize for Handke but the Nobel peace prize for Assange.”

And in a statement issued on Thursday, novelist Jennifer Egan, president of literature and human rights organisation Pen America, said:  “We are dumbfounded by the selection of a writer who has used his public voice to undercut historical truth and offer public succor to perpetrators of genocide, like former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic,” .. “We reject the decision that a writer who has persistently called into question thoroughly documented war crimes deserves to be celebrated for his ‘linguistic ingenuity.’ At a moment of rising nationalism, autocratic leadership, and widespread disinformation around the world, the literary community deserves better than this. We deeply regret the Nobel Committee on Literature’s choice.”..

——

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/10/nobel-peace-prize-must-spur-prime-minister-abiy-ahmed-towards-further-human-rights-reform/

https://mailchi.mp/a7dbe1560660/hrf-in-the-washington-post-on-todays-nobel-peace-prize?e=f80cec329e

https://home.bt.com/news/showbiz-news/ethiopian-human-rights-blogger-scoops-prize-in-memory-of-harold-pinter-11364401760959

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/oct/10/troubling-choice-authors-criticise-peter-handke-controversial-nobel-win

https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/10/10/20907919/nobel-prize-literature-2019-2018-controversy-peter-handke-olga-tokarczuk

Will Janet Jackson, 50 Cent and Tyga perform tomorrow in Jeddah and what will they say?

July 18, 2019

The Human Rights Foundation in New York continues its efforts to stop Saudi Arabia from using star power to shore up its reputation. Janet Jackson, 50 Cent, Future, Chris Brown, and Tyga are scheduled to perform at a concert on 18 July in Saudi Arabia. In a surprise, last-minute announcement, the Jeddah World Fest has added these high-profile performers to their concert, which is funded and authorized by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), one of the world’s worst human rights violators. Last week, their top-performer, Nicki Minaj, publicly cancelled her performance in solidarity with the Saudi LGBTQ+ community, Saudi women, and the principle of freedom of expression. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/10/nicki-minaj-did-the-right-thing-and-cancelled-her-performance-in-saudi-arabia/]

It’s clear that, after losing Nicki Minaj on the basis of the Saudi regime’s atrocious human rights record and their treatment of women and the gay community, the Crown Prince has chosen to spend whatever it takes to give the appearance that things are normal and that this is just another concert. Except it isn’t,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation (HRF). “It’s a blatant public relations push on the heels of the pre-meditated assassination of a Washington Post columnist and the ongoing imprisonment of dozens of human rights activists. Saudi is engaged in a sophisticated campaign of distraction. It’s baffling to the fans of Janet Jackson, 50 Cent, Liam Payne, and these other artists,  that despite knowing all of this, they still intend to perform. It’s profoundly distressing that they have chosen money over morals. These individuals constantly make public statements of support for LGBTQ+ rights, Black Lives Matter, and women’s rights, except, apparently, when a seven-figure check is attached. The hypocrisy is breathtaking. Principal apparently matters to them far more than principles.

HRF has written individually to each of these performers and explicitly referenced their previous positions on matters of women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, public policy, and police brutality. ..

The artists who are scheduled to perform in Saudia Arabia tomorrow have a long track record of supporting human rights causes:

  • In 2008, Janet Jackson received the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Vanguard Award. In 2010, she partnered with the Trevor Project’s “It Gets Better” campaign to support an initiative to reduce suicide and promote mental health among LGBTQ+ youth. In 2017, she received Out Magazine’s Music Icon Award. She accepted the Icon Award at the 2018 Billboard Awards (and as the first black woman to do so) and stated: “Women have made it clear we will no longer be controlled, manipulated, or abused.”  That same year, after accepting the Global Icon award at the MTV Europe Music Awards, she said the world could no longer tolerate gender inequality. Jackson also voiced her concern for gender inequality at the 2018 Global Citizen Festival saying: “I’m sick, I’m repulsed, I’m infuriated by the double standards that continue to [put] women as second-class citizens. Enough!”
  • Tyga was outspoken when the artist A$AP Rocky was arrested in Sweden. On Twitter he promoted the hashtag #FREEASAPROCKY and even went so far as to cancel his scheduled performance there on July 14. To that end, why wouldn’t he use the hashtag #FREELOUJAIN and cancel his Saudi Arabia appearance in solidarity with the imprisoned artists and activists there?
  • Chris Brown publicly expressed his frustration about artists who fail to raise their voices in favor of positive change. Expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement, he said: “I am asking all the celebrities and people with actual voices … how about we speak up right now and help people? Can our voices actually mean something? Please?”
  • In 2011, 50 Cent performed for the enjoyment of the family of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. The public outcry and embarrassment was slow in coming but when it came it compelled him to donate his dictatorial paycheck to UNICEF.

HRF believes that the participation of these artists in a festival sponsored by a murderous, repressive regime involved in gross human rights violations  — especially of women and sexual minorities — would be highly unfortunate and would send the message that dictatorial regimes can simply purchase the endorsements of high-profile celebrities while simultaneously discouraging those in the population seeking to bring about peaceful transformation. HRF hopes that these artists will stand up for human rights, women’s rights, and the rights of sexual minorities by being outspoken when they take the stage in Saudi Arabia tomorrow.

For the letters see: Janet Jackson; 50 Cent; Chris Brown; Tyga; and Future.

In the meantime, Saudi Arabia has also signed another big boxing match in its sports washing drive:

Amir Khan claims he and Manny Pacquiao have both signed up for a fight and is targeting a meeting in Riyad later this year with Amnesty International calling on the Briton to speak out on Saudi Arabia’s human rights issues. The 32-year-old says the pair have both agreed terms with Riyadh the venue for a long-awaited bout. Khan won the WBC international welterweight title with a fourth-round stoppage of Billy Dib in Jeddah on Friday night. Now he intends to return to Saudi Arabia on November 8 to face former sparring partner Pacquiao, if the Filipino comes through unscathed against Keith Thurman in their WBA welterweight title fight in Las Vegas this weekend.

https://mynbc15.com/news/entertainment/janet-jackson-50-cent-to-perform-at-saudi-arabia-concert

Saudi Arabia Spends Millions to Add Last-Minute Performers Janet Jackson, 50 Cent, and Others to the Jeddah “World Fest”

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/sport/other-sport/amir-khan-manny-pacquiao-sign-16604847

Nicki Minaj asked by human rights group to refuse Saudi money

July 9, 2019

The Human Rights Foundation sent a letter to the rapper Nicki Minaj asking her to cancel her performance on 18 july 2019 at a Saudi Arabia music festival being funded by controversial Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The organization said it “considers the Saudi regime to be one of the world’s worst human rights violators” and urged the singer, known for her provocative performances and racy lyrics “to cancel her performance, refuse the regime’s money and instead use her global influence to issue a statement demanding the release of the Saudi women activists who are currently in prison.

2018 MTV Video Music Awards - Photo Room - Radio City Music Hall, New York, U.S., August 20, 2018. - Rapper Nicki Minaj poses backstage with her Best Hip-Hop Video award for "Chun-Li." REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Nicki Minaj, at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

This blog has referred to the tension between star power and human rights on ealrier occasions, see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/10/helen-hunt-joins-list-of-celebrities-that-show-insensitivity-on-human-rights/, and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/02/10/star-power-and-human-rights-a-difficult-but-doable-mix/

The letter also discusses the country’s abuse of its LGBTQ citizens, including how at least five men were beheaded in April for admitting to sexual relations with other men. It connected that to Minaj taking part “in World Pride festivities in her hometown of New York City” last month, pointing out the hypocrisy. Toward the end of the letter, the human rights group wrote, “If you move forward with this performance for a festival sponsored by the Crown Prince, you will be in league with the people who respond to freedom of expression and thought with murder.

The organization said it sent the letter weeks ahead of the show so that Minaj can’t claim she is unaware. It noted that in 2015, the organization condemned the singer for signing on to perform “for the dictatorial regime of former president José Eduardo dos Santos and his family in Angola” for $2 million. “She performed anyway — and later claimed she was ‘high’ when she made the decision to perform. This time, Minaj and her team have been briefed about MBS two weeks in advance of her scheduled performance and therefore she cannot claim ignorance.” Minaj has not publicly commented on the letter. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/12/18/merry-christmas-in-angola-nicki-minaj-performs-but-not-for-human-rights-defenders/]

Liam Payne and Steve Aoki are also part of the Jeddah World Fest, which was touted in a Saudi newspaper as the “largest musical festival of its kind in the region.”

HRF to Nicki Minaj: Cancel Show in Saudi Arabia

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/nicki-minaj-asked-by-human-rights-group-to-pull-out-of-saudi-arabia-concert-refuse-the-regimes-money-192928036.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAALmfCLG92BT-v0iexBEYcxb_V_UClFIzMnnbsRT7NRT0gRQfdtYIxwIgPt6jtm9UYlo8tuWYoyocH7Z3F5z-IOAvRDcz-2pG38apDfDZacqxsMI7bhVxNo9C9X-aXtZU-InwRYf9JJTgjcnXLaurbWdhHi2jaKLe4M1pO8bLazHg

Today: Tiananmen Square 30 years ago was ‘correct’ but singing about it still not allowed

June 4, 2019

As many news outlets report today it is 30 years ago that China cracked down on Tiananmen Square. China tries mostly to forget about it and make others forget it about it too. Still, it recenty came out to defend it as the “correct policy”. “That incident was a political turbulence and the central government took measures to stop the turbulence which is a correct policy” Defence minister Wi Fenghe Wei told a regional security forum in Singapore. “The 30 years have proven that China has undergone major changes,” he said, adding that because of the government’s action at that time “China has enjoyed stability and development“. On the other hand Wu Qian, a spokesman for the defence ministry, decried the use of the word “suppression” to describe the crackdown.

But it does cover Chinese rock musician Li Zhi, who has been outspoken and sung songs about social issues including the Tiananmen Square crackdown, and has not been seen for three months. The South China Morning Post of 2 June has a detailed piece on what happened to this singer: His upcoming tour has been cancelled and his social media accounts taken down. Then his music was removed from all of China’s major streaming sites – as if his career had never existed at all. “Now this square is my grave,” Li sang. “Everything is just a dream.”

The disappearance of Li, the musician, has left fans searching for answers. On February 20, the official Weibo social media account for the 40-year-old’s concert tour posted a photograph of its team in front of a truck about to embark on scheduled performances in Sichuan province in China’s southwest. Just two days later, however, the account posted an image of a hand wearing what appeared to be a hospital wrist band and the words: “Very sorry.” The next post, published the same day, announced without explanation that the tour was cancelled and that ticket purchasers would shortly receive a refund. Fans flooded the comment section with wishes for a speedy recovery.

But the suggestion that a health issue was behind the cancellations was later thrown into doubt. A statement published in April by Sichuan’s culture department said it had “urgently halted” concert plans for a “well-known singer with improper conduct” who was previously slated for 23 performances – the same number of concerts which Li had scheduled in the province. It said 18,000 tickets were fully refunded.

..Li’s presence on the Chinese internet was completely erased. An April 21 central government directive ordered all websites to delete any audio or video content relating to five of Li’s songs, according to China Digital Times, an organisation that publishes leaked censorship instructions. The authenticity of the directive could not be independently verified.

“There’s pretty much a consensus” among those working in the industry that Li’s disappearance from public view is due to the sensitive anniversary, said a music industry professional who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of government retribution. “He did a number of songs that were considered politically risky, making references to June 4, 1989, and so he’s been out of the picture,” the industry professional said.

Li’s current whereabouts could not be confirmed. His company and record label did not respond to repeated interview requests. Li’s songs alluding to the Tiananmen Square protests – The Square, The Spring of 1990 and The Goddess, in honour of the Goddess of Democracy that students erected – were part of his earlier works. In recent years, the bespectacled singer has avoided making public political statements, focusing more on promoting his performances. In 2015, state-run China Daily newspaper published a profile of Li, describing him as a performer who easily sells out concerts. After years of working as an independent artist, he signed last autumn with Taihe Music Group, a major Chinese record label. Fans who knew Li as a largely apolitical entertainer expressed bewilderment online about his disappearance. Others made veiled references to China’s internet censorship. On Zhihu, a question-and-answer website similar to Quora, one user wrote that people posed questions every day about what might have happened to Li, but these posts always disappeared the next morning “as if nothing had happened at all”.

Another user said: “I don’t dare to say it, nor do I dare to ask.” A fan who has been sharing Li’s music on his personal account spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared his employers would punish him for discussing the subject. “Everyone knows the reason for Li Zhi’s disappearance,” the fan said. “But I’m sorry, I can’t tell you, because I follow China’s laws and also hope that Li Zhi can return.” Quoting one of Li’s lyrics, the fan added: “The world will be all right.” Fans continue to circulate videos of Li’s performances online. His complete discography has been uploaded onto file-sharing websites, with back-up links in case the original ones are shuttered. Some users shared tribute art, including a black T-shirt with the words “improper conduct”. A few years ago, in a performance in Taiwan, Li bounced around on stage, strumming his guitar and repeating a chorus in apparent tribute to the spirit of Chinese propaganda.

Foreign companies are not immune. Apple Music has removed from its Chinese streaming service a song by Hong Kong singer Jacky Cheung Hok-yau that references the Tiananmen crackdown. Tat Ming Pair, a Hong Kong duo, have been deleted entirely from the app. They released a song this month called Remembering is a Crime in memory of the protests.

Music by Tat Ming Pair – Anthony Wong Yiu-ming (left) and Tats Lau Yi-tat – has been deleted from the Apple Music app. Photo: K.Y. Cheng
Music by Tat Ming Pair – Anthony Wong Yiu-ming (left) and Tats Lau Yi-tat – has been deleted from the Apple Music app. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

Wikipedia also announced this month that the online encyclopaedia is no longer accessible in China. While the Chinese-language version has been blocked since 2015, most other languages could previously be viewed, Wikipedia said.

The Human Rights Foundation publised this video about China’s Million Person Muslim Prison Camps:

For the 25th anniversary see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/13/25-years-tiananmen-celebrated-with-over-100-detentions/

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/31/on-4-june-streets-around-chinese-embassy-to-be-renamed-tiananmen-square/

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/china-says-tiananmen-square-crackdown-1989-correct-policy-093500064.html

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3012782/outspoken-folk-rock-singer-li-zhi-disappears-china-tightens

Thai Anti-Junta Rap group awarded the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent

May 27, 2019

Corrected version: Last week I announced the 3 laureates of the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/15/2019-laureates-of-the-vaclac-havel-prize-for-creative-dissent-announced/] and one of them is Rap Against Dictatorship, which was threatened with legal action for their 2018 hit ‘My Country’s Got’, a viral rap video lambasting Thailand’s junta and justice system. Rap Against Dictatorship said two of its rappers are flying to Norway to attend the award ceremony, which will be held at the Oslo Freedom Forum – the same event which invited junta critic and Khaosod English writer Pravit Rojanaphruk to speak in 2015. “Liberate P and Jacoboi are our representatives to receive the prize. Please keep supporting us,” the group said.

My country preaches morals but has a crime rate higher than the Eiffel Tower. My country’s parliament house is a soldiers’ playground. My country points a gun at your throat,” read some of the lyrics.

Police officials considered filing sedition charges against the rappers, to much ridicule on social media, but no legal action was taken.

http://www.khaosodenglish.com/politics/2019/05/27/anti-junta-rappers-awarded-creative-dissent-prize/

 

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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