Posts Tagged ‘Safeguard Defenders’

China’s “Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location” needs to disappear!

February 5, 2022

In China, brave activists are trying to improve the daily life of their fellow citizens and defend their rights to speak freely, to be treated on an equal footing with others, to protest peacefully, or to practice a religion. But the Chinese government fears that their actions will challenge its power and that their criticisms will undermine it. Like the Uyghur and Tibetan peoples, many who stand up for human rights are repressed and silenced, and the authorities have found a very effective way to do that: they disappear them.

On 22 October 2020, exactly a year ago, lawyer Chang Weiping was disappeared under ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’ (or ‘RSDL’) for ‘inciting subversion of State power.’ Lawyer Chang is a human rights lawyer, who has bravely defended sensitive cases of victims of sexual harassment during China’s ‘Me Too’. He has also worked with victims of discriminatory practices due to their sexual orientation or HIV status, or targeted for speaking freely or practicing their religion. Ten days before his disappearance, he had published a video denouncing torture he had endured when he was first held under RSDL in January 2020, after attending a meeting with other activists a month earlier. UN experts have publicly called for his release. No one knows where he is held. [see also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/2e6ec951-79e7-4a36-b077-76bfe05e3817]

Since 2012, China’s rubber-stamp legislative body passed and amended several articles in its Criminal Procedure Law that give police the power to take people into custody without disclosing where they will be held: this is called ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’. When this happens, people are denied all contact with the outside world, even with their family or a lawyer, for up to six months. No one knows where they are. They are interrogated and often tortured to extract confessions. Meanwhile, despite the barriers and risks they have to overcome, their families persist in seeking knowledge about their loved one’s fate and justice for what they suffered.

United Nations experts are clear: RSDL is a form of enforced disappearance. With estimations of up to 57.000 individuals under RSDL, enforced disappearances are endemic in China. RSDL tears families apart, and is intended to instill fear into China’s human rights movement. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/10/more-on-residential-surveillance-in-a-designated-location-rsdl-in-china/

Many human rights activists have stopped promoting dignity, peace and justice in their communities because they fear to be disappeared by the police. This practice – enforced disappearance – is absolutely wrong and prohibited under international law. Everyone should be able to speak their mind and participate in the life of their communities. 

ISHR, Safeguard Defenders, The Rights Practice and The 29 Principles are mobilising the international community to put pressure on China to #RepealRSDL and end enforced disappearances against human rights defenders.

They want the Chinese government to repeal RSDL (articles 74 to 79 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law), and to bring truth and justice to victims.

RSDL should be high on the agenda of any human rights exchange with the Chinese government. We want governments worldwide to speak out and use all bilateral and multilateral channels to press the Chinese government to #RepealRSDL. We want the UN to amplify its monitoring of RSDL in China, and to sustain its pressure on the authorities to respect international law and to #RepealRSDL.

Feeling supported is vital for disappeared defenders and their relatives. We want the media, human rights groups and activists across the world to pay closer attention to RSDL, to raise awareness around them, and to stand in solidarity with disappeared Chinese human rights defenders and their relatives.

How do we achieve this? 

We are working hard to: 

  • Increase the awareness and legal understanding of government officials and diplomats, UN experts, journalists, and human rights groups, there is a short document that explains clearly what UN experts have said about RSDL, and are spreading the word online and offline.
  • Mobilise diplomatic missions, through meetings and letters, and encourage them to speak out on RSDL at the UN and in other spaces; 
  • Push UN experts to take up individual cases and pay a closer look at the use and impact of RSDL in light of China’s obligations under international human rights law ;
  • Encourage governments, activists, and concerned individuals to stand in solidarity with disappeared human rights defenders and their relatives

What can you do? 

Stand in solidarity! Feeling supported is vital for disappeared defenders and their relatives. Send a solidarity message with Chen Zijuan, lawyer Chang’s wife: write a postcard, and share it with her on your social media by clicking on the image below. Don’t hesitate to personalise it before tweeting. Alternatively you can copy paste this link in your browser: https://ctt.ac/477cf

You can also raise awareness! Check out the informational and communication material in our ‘Campaign Toolbox’, and share it with your country’s ministry of foreign affairs, a journalist you know, your friends or your social media followers – and remember to tag @ISHRglobal, and #StandWithDefenders #RepealRSDL.

https://ishr.ch/action/campaigns/call-on-china-to-free-defenders-and-repealrsdl/

China goes after dissidents abroad

January 18, 2022

On 18 January 2022 a new report by Safeguard Defenders, inspired Al-Jazeera (Erin Hale) to write about how the Chinese authorities are trying to coerce critics thousands of miles from home into returning.

Wang Jingyou was living in Turkey last year when he found that the 7,000 kilometres (4350 miles) between him and his homeland was no obstacle to an offended Chinese state. Wang had left China after voicing his support on TikTok for Hong Kong’s democracy protests, but after he questioned the outcome of an Indian-Chinese border clash on social media in February 2021, mainland authorities sprung into action.

Within half an hour of the post, police in his hometown of Chongqing had visited his parents. Then they detained them. They said Wang, who is in his early twenties, had “slandered and belittled heroes” while also “picking quarrels”, two charges that in China are often used to silence government critics.

“I’m not in China, I’m in Europe,” Wang told Al Jazeera. “I just said something. I didn’t do anything and they put my (name) on a wanted (list) in the government website, in the official media, also in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs too.”

Wang soon found himself on a months-long journey of harassment that saw him detained while flying through Dubai in April 2021 and threatened with deportation to China – which he narrowly avoided when his story became international news. Wang and his fiancée travelled through several countries before they eventually claimed asylum in the Netherlands, but not before China had cancelled their passports.

“We are in the Netherlands, but they also have many, many ways to find us,” Wang said, alleging that even with a Dutch phone number he continues to receive threatening text messages and phone calls.

Chinese paramilitary police in summer unoforms march outside a new museum to the Chinese Commuist Party

Wang’s story may sound dramatic, but it is far from extraordinary in Xi Jinping’s China, according to human rights watchdog Safeguard Defenders, which released a new report on Tuesday on the country’s widespread practice of “involuntary returns”. Such pressure has been used on more than 10,000 alleged Chinese “fugitives” who since 2014 have been coerced into returning from abroad to face detention or prosecution for alleged corruption and other crimes, the report said citing official data.

Methods to “encourage” return can vary from harassment and coercion of friends and family online, to approaching a citizen overseas through Chinese or domestic security agents, and more “irregular” methods like state-sponsored kidnapping, Safeguard Defenders said. In some cases, authorities may freeze family assets or even threaten to remove children from families.

Kidnappings typically occur in countries with a strong relationship with China, like Thailand or Myanmar, but Safeguard Defenders said as many as 10 people may have been kidnapped from among Australia’s large Chinese diaspora in recent years.

The list also includes the 2015 disappearance of five staff members associated with a Hong Kong book store specialising in books banned in China. One bookseller, Gui Minhai, disappeared in Thailand while the others went missing on trips to China, only to later emerge in Chinese detention

China has also made use of Interpol “red notices“, which flag a citizen to police and immigration departments around the world so they can be deported back home, where they face a 99 percent conviction rate if prosecuted, the watchdog said.

“Involuntary returns” have become increasingly common since China first launched an ambitious anti-corruption campaign in 2012, followed by Operation Foxhunt in 2014 to repatriate Communist Party officials facing corruption charges who have fled abroad, and the broader Operation Sky Net in 2015 to target money laundering.

While nominally law-enforcement based, Operation Foxhunt has been described as a “campaign to enforce political loyalty, avoid in-Party factionalism and to more generally instil Party discipline”, Safeguard Defenders said in the report.

Both campaigns have corresponded to a 700 percent jump in Chinese people seeking asylum abroad between 2012 and 2020 as China’s already limited civil and political rights have been curtailed even further under President Xi, the rights group said.

That number does not include the 88,000 Hong Kong people who applied to resettle in the UK in 2021 under a new immigration scheme, after the imposition of a national security law for the Chinese territory that Amnesty says has “decimated” freedoms and rights that Beijing had promised to respect until at least 2047.

More than 175,000 people have been officially recognised as refugees, but that has not kept Chinese authorities from orchestrating “involuntary returns” whether they are government defectors, Falun Gong practitioners, human rights defenders, political dissidents, or even ordinary citizens like Wang who have fallen afoul of increasingly strict authorities.

Wang says he was just doing what millions of other people do everyday — sharing his views on social media.

“We didn’t do anything against China,” he said. “I wrote something. I never thought they would (begin to) watch me.”

https://safeguarddefenders.com/en/blog/involuntary-returns-report-exposes-long-arm-policing-overseas

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/18/china-critics-overseas-feel-the-long-reach-of-beijing-report

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jan/18/china-forced-2500-fugitives-back-from-overseas-during-pandemic-report-finds