Posts Tagged ‘Uyghurs’

China in the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council: Uyghurs and jailed human rights defenders

July 6, 2021

In a statement 22 June 2021, the ISHR on behalf of over 20 civil society organisations called for unequivocal action by the High Commissioner to monitor and report on the human rights situation in China. The violations targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, the groups underlined, have been determined by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to constitute crimes against humanity.

‘The Special Procedures and treaty bodies have repeatedly, for the last five years, raised serious concerns about the human rights situation in China,’ said Sarah M Brooks, ISHR programme director. ‘But despite these efforts, little has changed. More is needed.’

The gravity of the situation was underlined also by a joint statement delivered by Canada, on behalf of more than 40 states, earlier today. Listing a range of concerns about treatment of Uyghurs, those governments pressed China to allow ‘immediate, meaningful and unfettered’ access to the region for the High Commissioner.

The weight of evidence and the gravity of allegations of crimes against humanity against Uyghurs demands that the High Commissioner commence remote monitoring and public reporting immediately. The full statement can be accessed here

Anadolu on 29 June 2021 reported that Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders, says she has countless reports about mistreatment of activists in China.

The UN’s independent expert on human rights defenders said that she feared activists in China were arbitrarily sentenced to long prison terms, house arrest and tortured and also denied access to medical treatment, their lawyers and families.

Condemning human rights defenders…to long terms in prison for their peaceful human rights work, abusing them in custody and failing to provide them with adequate medical care…cannot continue,” Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders, said in a statement.

She said she had “countless reports” pointing to the mistreatment of human rights defenders in Chinese custody, which is “endemic.”

Geneva’s Chinese mission spokesman Liu Yuyin later refuted Lawlor’s criticism, accusing the UN expert of having “deliberately smeared China, spread disinformation and interfered in China’s judicial sovereignty under the pretext of human rights.”

“The individuals that Ms. Lawlor and other special procedure mandate holders mentioned have committed a series of crimes such as inciting subversion of state power and splitting the state. The facts are clear and the evidence is solid,” he added.

Lawlor said the treatment meted out to those jailed may amount to torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment, despite a plethora of recommendations from the UN mechanisms over the years, including from the Committee Against Torture.

Some defenders, such as Gao Zhisheng, have been “forcibly disappeared,” while others such as Guo Hongwei have died in prison, she said. Lawlor said she knew of at least 13 human rights defenders sentenced on “spurious charges” such as “picking quarrels” or “provoking trouble” to 10 years or more in prison for peacefully defending the rights of others. Among them is Qin Yongmin, sentenced to 35 years in prison for work that included promoting engagement with the UN, and Ilham Tohti, a “moderate scholar” serving a life sentence.

“Tohti was arbitrarily arrested, allegedly tortured and sentenced to life after a closed-door trial. He was not allowed any family visits and no information has been provided by Chinese authorities since,” said Lawlor. He is a much-recognised defender: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/37AE7DC4-16DB-51E9-4CF8-AB0828AEF491

Human rights defender Chen Xi, serving 10 years in prison, has chronic enteritis, which causes dehydration and fever. In winter, he contracts severe frostbite on his hands, ears and abdomen, and in his lifetime, he has been sentenced to 23 years in prison, said the expert.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc47-governments-ngos-call-high-commissioner-step-work-protect-uyghurs

https://www.globalvillagespace.com/un-expert-raises-concern-on-jailed-activist-in-china/

China-EU deal – what about human rights?

January 6, 2021

A long-awaited deal, the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment includes provisions for settling disputes and outlines clear rules against the forced transfer of technologies — a practice in which a government requires foreign investors to share their technology in exchange for market access.

The EU previously said the agreement should increase the transparency of Chinese state subsidies and make sustainable development a key element of the relationship between the two trading blocs.

China’s Ministry of Commerce said “both sides had made tremendous efforts” at a press conference following Wednesday’s meeting and that they had “overcome difficulties” to conclude talks. It said the deal focuses on institutional opening up with market access as the key principle of the deal, which will mean more investment opportunities for businesses on both sides and “a better business environment”.

But the EU expressed concerns about “the restrictions on freedom of expression, on access to information, and intimidation and surveillance of journalists, as well as detentions, trials and sentencing of human rights defenders, lawyers, and intellectuals in China.” The EU’s diplomatic agency, the European External Action Service, has called for the immediate release of Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer who reported on the early stage of the coronavirus outbreak in China and has been sentenced to four years in prison.

The issue of human rights could prove to be a sticking point for the deal clearing the EU Parliament, with critics drawing attention to reports of forced labour in some regions of China.

The stories coming out of Xinjiang are pure horror. The story in Brussels is we’re ready to sign an investment treaty with China,” Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian MEP for Renew Europe, said on Twitter. “Under these circumstances, any Chinese signature on human rights is not worth the paper it is written on”.

There could also be friction with the new US President-elect Joe Biden and his administration, as just weeks ago the EU proposed a trans-Atlantic dialogue to address “the strategic challenge presented by China’s growing international assertiveness.”

Amid concerns about the human rights situation in China, the EU said the seven-year-long negotiations were concluded in “principle” during a video conference involving Mr Xi, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council president Charles Michel. German chancellor Angela Merkel – whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU – and French president Emmanuel Macron also took part in the discussions with the Chinese president, the EU said. Macron highlighted the “concerns” of EU countries regarding human rights and called for the “closure of internment camps”, according to the speech given by his office. He also pleaded in favor of “measures to ban forced labor” and called for “a visit of independent United Nations experts”.

According to the EU, the deal was negotiated after China pledged to continue ratifying the International Labor Organization’s rules on forced labor. “We are open for business but we are attached to reciprocity, level playing field and values,” Ms von der Leyen said.

French president Emmanuel Macron attends an EU-China video conference along with Chinese president Xi Jinping, German chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and president of the European Council Charles Michel, at the Fort de Bregancon in Bormes-les-Mimosas, southern France
French president Emmanuel Macron attends an EU-China video conference at the Fort de Bregancon in Bormes-les-Mimosas, southern France (Sebastien Nogier, Pool via AP)

The video conference launches a ratification process that will take several months. To enter into force, the agreement will need to be ratified by the European Parliament, and the issue of human rights could be a sticking point.

https://www.chesterstandard.co.uk/news/national-news/18976931.leaders-eu-china-seal-long-awaited-investment-deal/

https://www.euronews.com/2020/12/30/eu-and-china-set-to-sign-historic-investment-deal-but-could-human-rights-concerns-scupper-

China, Arsenal, Ozil and freedom of expression…

December 16, 2019

On 16 December 2019 wrote in the Guardian “Craven Arsenal abandon Mesut Özil over his stance on China’s Uighur persecution“.  He argued that the midfielder is in tune with human rights groups over the imprisonment of millions of Uighurs but the club chose to raise a white flag. The incident touches on more than the freedom of expression of an individual player. ‘Sports washing’ (see earlier posts:  https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-washing/) is a widespread phenomenon to which Arsenal itself in no stranger. It plays in the Emirates Stadium and in Emirates T-shirts (in a 280 million $ deal) without ever mentioning Ahmed Mansoor the UAE’s most prominent political prisoner [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/07/ahmed-mansoor-ten-years-jail-for-tweeting-and-a-street-named-after-you/]

A demonstrator in Istanbul holds up a picture of Arsenal’s Mesut Özil who expressed his horror at China’s treatment of the Uighurs.

On the Chinese social media site Weibo Arsenal quicly posted that Özil’s comments were merely his “personal opinion” and reminding that “Arsenal has always adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics”. The article nicely quotes Simon Chadwick, a professor of sports enterprise at Salford University who specialises in China: “The world is in the midst of an ideological battle: western liberalism versus eastern authoritarianism. And sport is one of the front lines.”

Also saying it is just a personal opinion, seems a bit much:  Özil was entirely in tune with a United Nations panel and multiple human rights groups who have spoken out about the imprisonment of millions of Uighur people in internment camps without trial for “re-education” in what has been described as the largest incarceration of one ethnic group since the Holocaust, with multiple accounts of torture, rape and abuse from eyewitnesses who have passed through.

Celebrities have been criticised for NOT speaking out when they insist on touring human rights violating regimes (e.g. only last week Anthony Joshua was widely criticised for not speaking out about human rights in Saudi Arabia and Mariah Carey in July this year [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/10/nicki-minaj-did-the-right-thing-and-cancelled-her-performance-in-saudi-arabia/]. states” Yet can you blame sportspeople for staying quiet when they see Özil bravely raising his head above the parapet only to be shot down by his own club? As for Arsenal not involving themselves in politics, what did the club think they were doing when they agreed a £30m deal with the Rwandan government to promote tourism?

It would seem that what is ‘political’ is mostly determined by the sensitivity and power of the country being targeted. And in the case of China there is very little margin. Whether it is the according of awards to dissidents or accepting statements on Hong Kong by NBA officials [see more generally: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/12/06/china-and-its-amazing-sensitivity-on-human-rights-defenders/]. As stated: The decision by CCTV not to show Arsenal’s match against Manchester City is another reminder that there is no middle ground here. No way to stick up for human rights and free speech without angering China. You are either for such values or against them.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2019/dec/16/arsenal-mesut-ozil-uighurs-china

Universal human rights apply to Ilham Tohti? China and EU: disagree

October 26, 2019
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his EU counterpart Federica Mogherini in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his EU counterpart Federica Mogherini in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: Xinhua

Keegan Elmer  in the South China Morning Post of 25/26 October 2019 reports that Chinese officials have told their European counterparts that human rights should be measured by the people’s well-being and rejected the EU’s support for the “universal” values enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The statements issued by both sides after a meeting between the EU’s foreign affairs chief and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi underlined their disagreements on human rights by recording their discussions on the topic in markedly different ways. While the Europeans focused on Mogherini’s support for “universality”, the Chinese statement emphasised her call for mutual respect and comments that there were “different approaches” to the issue.

According China, Mogherini had acknowledged that there are “different approaches to safeguarding and promoting human rights” and accepted that there were “problems with the human rights situation in European countries”. It continued that she had agreed to continue cooperation and exchanges with China “on the basis of mutual respect”, adding: “The EU does not intend to act as the ‘teacher’ of other countries on human rights issues.”

But the EU’s account of the meeting did not refer to Wang’s comments and said Mogherini had “underlined to the Chinese leadership that the EU will continue to stand up for the universality, interdependence and indivisibility of human rights based on the UN Charter and standards”.

China extraordinary sensitivity to ‘interference’ of any level into what it considers its domestic affairs is well-known. I touched upon this hot’ topic’ in my own 2011 article “The international human rights movement: not perfect, but a lot better than many governments think” in the book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’ (exceptionally also published in Chinese!): Yuwen Li (ed), Ashgate, 2011, pp 287-304 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4).

On the same day that the pair met in Beijing, the European Parliament awarded its 2019 Sakharov Human Rights Prize to human rights defender Ilham Tohti, who is serving a life sentence. The statement announcing the award called for his immediate release and said “for over two decades, he has worked tirelessly to foster dialogue and understanding between Uygurs and other Chinese people”. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/24/lham-tohti-now-also-awarded-the-2019-sakharov-prize/]. Predictably, during a press conference on Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said the parliament had “given a prize to a criminal”. “I don’t know how much meaning, value or influence [the prize] has,” said Hua. “I only know Tohti is a criminal that has been sentenced by a Chinese court.

Neither the Chinese nor the EU have said whether Tohti’s case or the situation in Xinjiang – where Beijing is accused of detaining a million mainly Uygur Muslims in re-education camps – had been discussed.

Ilham Tohti and Balkan youth group share 2019 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize

October 1, 2019
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has awarded jailed Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti the 2019 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, making him the first dissident from China to receive the prize. Tohti, 49, shares the prize  with the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) – a group that brings together youths from across the Balkans to promote reconciliation – on Monday at ceremony in Strasbourg, France on the opening day of PACE’s autumn plenary session.
PACE said in a statement after a live broadcast on September 30 that actions taken by the two prize winners carry “a message of hope for all those who aspire to build a better world, one where the dignity, rights, and basic liberties of everyone are respected and guaranteed.

Tohti is an advocate for China’s Uyghur Muslim minority who was sentenced to life in prison by Beijing in 2014 on separatism charges. YIHR is a Balkan-based group promoting reconciliation through building connections between young people from different ethnic groups, regions, and countries.

The award was accepted on Tohti’s behalf by Enver Can of the Ilham Tohti Initiative, who said that while the prize honors individuals and organizations, “it also recognizes a whole population in giving the entire Uyghur people a voice,” and vowed to continue efforts to free the jailed professor. Speaking to RFA’s Uyghur Service on Monday, Tohti’s daughter, Jewher Ilham, welcomed the award and expressed appreciation to Europe-based rights groups—particularly the Ilham Tohti Initiative—for advancing her father’s case.

Enver Can called the Vaclav Havel Prize “tremendous recognition of Ilham Tohti’s efforts to help his people.”

After Tohti was shortlisted for the seventh Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize last month [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/29/ilham-tohti-one-of-the-finalists-for-the-vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize/], China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a press conference that PACE should “withdraw the nomination and stop supporting separatist and terrorist forces.”

Tohti was awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in 2014, the Martin Ennals Award in 2016, the Liberal International Prize for Freedom in 2017, and Freedom House’s Freedom Award in 2019. The jailed professor is also a nominee for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
——–

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/award-09302019133018.html

https://www.rferl.org/a/council-of-europe-awards-joint-havel-prize-to-uyghur-activist-tohti-balkan-youth-group/30191297.html

Ilham Tohti one of the finalists for the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize

August 29, 2019

Photo courtesy of Martin Ennals Award

Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur scholar who has been serving a life sentence in Chinese prison since 2014, has been chosen as a finalist for the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize.  [see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/vaclav-havel-prize-for-human-rights-pace].  The Germany-based Ilham Tohti Initiative e.V. (ITI) had nominated Prof. Tohti to the Prize on April 29, with support of four other human rights activists and NGOs. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/15/today-ilham-tohti-completes-his-fourth-year-in-chinese-detention/].

The decision as to the Prize winner will be made by the Selection Panel on 29 September 2019, and its name will be announced in the Chamber of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, on 30 September 2019 at 12:30pm. The award ceremony for the Prize will subsequently take place in the presence of all three shortlisted candidates. Two other candidates, who have also been shortlisted are Mr Buzurgmehr Yorov (Tajikistan) and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights.

The UNPO is currently campaigning for Mr. Tohti to also be awarded the Sakharov Prize saying that such prizes are an excellent way in which the international community can continue to show support for the Uyghur people in the face of hostile oppression.

China’s predictable reaction came quickly: “Beijing slammed on Thursday the nomination of a jailed academic from China’s Uighur minority for one of Europe’s top human rights awards, saying it equated to “supporting terrorism”.

https://unpo.org/article/21639

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/china-says-uighur-award-nomination-is-supporting-terrorism

Alarm bells about China’s growing coalition of the ‘unwilling’

July 20, 2019

On 18 July 2019ecturer on Human Rights, School of Law, University of Essex, wrote in The Conversation a piece that sounds alarm bells about “China is building a global coalition of human rights violators to defend its record in Xinjiang – what is its endgame? Worth taking note:

Read the rest of this entry »

Trump’s “new” thinking on human rights in foreign policy?

June 3, 2019

President Trump and Mr. Pompeo have raised human rights abuses only sporadically, to pressure adversaries such as Iran and Venezuela, while ignoring gross violations elsewhere, a gaping inconsistency that undercuts the moral leadership of the United States. Of course, human rights are never the only concern in foreign policy and must be balanced against other factors and interests. But it does not require any more “solid definitions” to understand the horrors of Xinjiang province, where China has herded more than 1 million Turkic Uighur Muslims into brainwashing camps to eradicate their culture and language. This ethnic cleansing has come to light during the Trump administration, but its reaction has been tepid.

Do the president and the secretary need any more “solid definitions” in order to object to the methods of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose hit squad was dispatched to Istanbul to kill journalist and Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi? Is the United States having trouble finding a voice to speak out against the abuse of human rights in Turkey, Egypt and Russia because of a lack of definitions — or because of a misplaced desire to butter up the authoritarians who rule them?

“Fresh thinking” is always valuable. But when it comes to human rights, time-tested institutions, principles and tools exist. They just need to be utilized.

Cao Shunli died five years ago – how many more before there is a change?

March 14, 2019

On 14 March 

Veteran Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli, who died in 2014 in a Beijing hospital.

Veteran Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli, who died in 2014 in a Beijing hospital. Photograph: Front Line Defenders

Five years ago today, Chinese activist Cao Shunli died in a Beijing hospital surrounded by police. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/12/cao-shunli-a-profile-and-new-award-in-her-name/]

...This week is an opportunity to pay tribute to Cao Shunli, but also importantly, for the international community to speak up and remind the Chinese government of its obligations to safeguard human rights. On March 15, the UNHRC will be meeting to adopt a final report on recommendations made in November during China’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR). ……States can use Friday’s meeting to speak out and pay tribute to Cao Shunli and all those who have died under Chinese police custody, reject China’s denials made during the UPR over its rights abuses in Xinjiang, and build momentum towards passing a resolution on the human rights situation in China……..Since the council’s creation in 2006, there has not been a single country-specific resolution directed at China despite a worsening rights situation. It’s time for the UNHRC to end its double standards and mandate an international fact-finding mission to look into the credible reports of internment camps in Xinjiang.

Many human rights defenders, like Cao, and ethnic and religious minorities have died in Chinese custody due to torture or deprivation of medical treatment. China’s only Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, Uighur scholar Muhammad Salih Hajim, and Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche all died in police custody in recent years.

Others, like detained citizen journalist Huang Qi, await such a fate without urgent intervention. Police have denied Huang, who has kidney and heart diseases, medical treatment and have repeatedly beaten him in custody. His condition has deteriorated to the point where supporters fear he may become “another Cao Shunli” and UN independent experts recently expressed concern he might die in detention.

Ten other Chinese activists, journalists, scholars, and lawyers are on a medical watchlist of political prisoners, launched after Cao’s death to draw attention to China’s practice of torture by withholding medical treatment…………..

It’s no coincidence that following a weak response internationally to the deaths of prominent human rights defenders and a widespread crackdown on civil society that the Xi government felt confident enough to establish a system of mass internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and Muslims and turn the Xinjiang region into a “no-rights zone”.

Human rights defenders and ethnic and religious minorities in China face real risks for standing up to the Chinese government. They don’t pay with lost trade deals but with their lives. The risks of speaking out in defence of human rights and fundamental freedoms in China include losing your job, your home, your family, or being disappeared, arbitrarily detained, tortured, or even killed.

Cao Shunli said before her death: “Our impact may be large, may be small, and may be nothing. But we must try. It is our duty to the dispossessed and it is the right of civil society.” States should remember her spirit and not be afraid to speak truth to power.

Note that on 14 March a group of UN experts have renewed their call for a comprehensive and independent investigation into her death by Chinese authorities (https://www.protecting-defenders.org/en/news/china-un-experts-renew-calls-probe-death-cao-shunli).

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/14/cao-shunli-died-five-years-ago-she-stood-up-to-china-on-human-rights-and-so-must-we

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