Japan’s Recent Resolution Around Disputed Islands Exacerbate Tensions

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

TOKYO, Japan – On Friday, Japan demanded South Korea end its unauthorized occupation of small islands under Japanese control.  In addition, Japan criticized China for its unrightful claims over other islands and occupation by Chinese activists.

Japanese Nationalists with on island with Japanese flag. (Photo Courtesy of New York Times)

“Since earlier this month, a series of incidents have occurred, threatening to violate our sovereignty, which we find extremely regrettable.  We do not tolerate these actions,” voiced Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

On Friday, Japan’s lawmakers passed a symbolic resolution banning South Korea’s President, Lee Myung-bak, from Japan’s island, Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean.

“We condemn [Lee’s landing] and strongly demand South Korea end its illegal occupation of Takeshima as soon as possible,” read the resolution.  According to the Washington Post, the strong language in the dispute worsened relations between both countries.

On the other front, on August 17th, Japan deported 14 Chinese activists previously detained after landing on an island concurrently claimed by Japan and China in the East China Sea.  The island, Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, lies near rich gas reserves, and in April, Tokyo’s governor announced that he would purchase the cluster of islands.

As reported by the Washington Post, critics pressured Prime Minister Noda to take harsher action monitoring and protecting the islands.  Accordingly, Mr. Noda announced that Japan would bolster its security near Senkaku or Diaoyu to prevent further “incursions by foreigners.”  Mr. Noda further stated that Japan would continue to push its position in international forums.

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei claimed, “It is illegal and futile for Japan to strengthen its claim by approving the resolution.  It does not change the fact that the islands belong to China.”

In September 2010, a Chinese fishing boat collided with Japanese coastguard patrols near the disputed islands.  According to the Guardian, a Japanese coastguard claimed that the collision occurred after the captain disregarded requests to leave the area and subsequently refused to allow Japanese authorities to inspect his boat.  The Japanese further demanded that China pay for the damages.

Such events have lead to thousands of anti-Japanese protests the last few weeks in China.  As a result, Japan has urged China to protect its citizens.

“With a rising China and a more self-confident South Korea, the region is entering an era of turbulence,” shared Narushige Michishita, a security expert from Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.

For further information, please see: 

Tapei Times – Japan talks tough in row with South Korea on Islands – 26 Aug. 2012

The Washington Post – Japan condemns ‘illegal’ landings by Chinese activists, SKorean president on disputed islands – 24 Aug. 2012

Euro News – Japan and China clash over disputed islands – 20 Aug. 2012

The Guardian – Japan to deport 14 Chinese island activists – 17 Aug. 2012

The Guardian – Japan-China row escalates over fishing boat collision – 09 Sept. 2010



New Delhi Authorities Detain Protesting Yoga Instructor

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW DELHI, India – Today, New Delhi authorities arrested Baba Ramdev, a popular yoga instructor and Hindu talk show host, for his participation in an anti-corruption protest near Parliament.

Authorities arresting Baba Ramdev. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

“Remove the Congress party and save the nation,” urged Mr. Ramdev amongst thousands.

Mr. Ramdev and his supporters marched in protest of the government’s failure to control corruption and retrieve black money stashed away in foreign countries.

According to the Times of India, a Congress representative declared the protest a stunt.

“Lok Sabha polls will be in 2014 and 99 per cent could be in 2013.  This protest is to ensure that no dishonest person enters Parliament.  Such people should be boycotted.  We do not have a political agenda,” shared Mr. Ramdev.

After his detainment, authorities moved Mr. Ramdev to a bus expected to transport the yoga instructor to a Bawana police station located outside of New Delhi.  However, a large number of Mr. Ramdev’s supporters climbed on the bus, delaying its movement.  In the end, authorities ordered ninety buses to round up the protestors.

“We’ve deployed adequate security for Ramdev’s march.  Everything should be in control,” said a New Delhi police spokesman to Reuters.  However, he refused to comment on whether Mr. Ramdev received permission for the protest.

“Delhi Police is a puppet in the hands of the Central government.  We will not do anything that disrupts peace.  We wanted to march towards Parliament in a peaceful manner to make our voices heard,” said Mr. Ramdev.

For further information, please see: 

The Guardian – Indian TV star Baba Ramdev arrested at anti-corruption walk – 13 August 2012

New Delhi – Ramdev detained by police, fails to reach Parliament – 13 August 2012

News of India – Baba Ramdev taken into preventive custody – 13 August 2012

Reuters – Baba Ramdev’s detention lifted, protest continues – 13 August 2012

Gu Kailai’s Trial is Set for Neil Heywood’s Murder.

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – On August 9th, Gu Kailai’s murder trial will begin in the eastern city of Hefei.  Ms. Gu, the wife of former Communist Party member, Bo Xilai, will face a jury for the alleged murder of British businessman, Neil Heywood.

Gu Kailai and Bo Xilai together. (Photo Courtesy of CNN)

In early April, authorities arrested Mr. Gu and last week, prosecutors charged Ms. Gu with intentional homicide.  If convicted, Ms. Gu may face the death penalty.

On November 15, 2011, Mr. Heywood was discovered dead in his hotel.  Chinese authorities allegedly quickly categorized his death as overconsumption of alcohol.  Furthermore, Mr. Heywood’s body was cremated without an autopsy.

Prior to his death, Mr. Heywood resided in China for over a decade with his Chinese wife.  Moreover, he consulted with various companies, including a company founded by former MI6 agents, Britain’s secret intelligence service.

When Wang Lijun, Mr. Xilau’s long-time lieutenant, sought political asylum last February at a U.S. Consulate, suspicion arose.  According to CNN, Mr. Lijun feared for his life because he was holding incriminating information against Mr. Xilau, the former Communist Party chief.

Mr. Wang had previously headed Mr. Xilau’s campaign against organized crime.  However, after Mr. Wang voiced that Mr. Heywood might have been poisoned during a business dispute with Ms. Gu, trouble between the two ignited.

According to The Telegraph, Ms. Gu poisoned Mr. Heywood after he allegedly threated her son.  Mr. Heywood and Ms. Gu’s son purportedly clashed over their “economic interests.”  Fearing for her son’s safety, Ms. Gu, with her house aid, who is also facing the jury, poisoned Mr. Heywood.

A UK Foreign Office spokesman reassured that Britain is dedicated to finding justice for Mr. Heywood’s family.  “The details of the ongoing investigation are a matter for the Chinese authorities,” shared a Foreign Office spokesman last week.  “However, we are glad to see that the Chinese authorities are continuing with the investigation.  We are dedicated to seeking justice for him and his family and we will be following developments closely.”

For more information, please see:

Telegraph News – Gu Kailai poisoned Neil Heywood ‘after he threatened her son’ – 05 Aug. 12

BBC – Heywood murder: China sets Bo Xilai wife trial date – 04 Aug. 12

CNBC – China to hold Gu Kailia muder trial on Aug 9: sources – 04 Aug. 12

CNN – Murder trial starts next week for Chinese politician’s wife, friend says – 03 Aug. 12


Smuggling Bust Illustrates China’s Human-Trafficking Issue

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Yesterday, the National Immigration Agency (NIA) arrested more than 40 smugglers in its operation against the largest known cross-strait human-trafficking syndicate.  According to Taipei Times, this syndicate is responsible for smuggling hundreds of Chinese men and women into Canada and Australia.

Nurses examine rescued infants. (Photo Courtesy of XinHua News)

In 2010, the NIA’s border affairs uncovered evidence linking Feng Sheng-hsing, a former syndicate member, to Wang Cheng-wei, a member of another cross-strait trafficking group.

In 2005, Mr. Feng, using fake passports, smuggled hundreds of Chinese men and women into both Canada and the United States.  According to the NIA, Mr. Feng first purchased Republic of China (ROC) passports, searched for those wanting to leave China, and subsequently added the participant’s photograph to the passport.

The agency attested to the syndicate’s 50 successful operations, smuggling one to four people per operation, and its profit of $50,000 to $70,000 per person.  Moreover, the syndicate is purportedly the “largest human-trafficking group in Asia, Australia and North America” with estimated profits of $3.34 MM.

Contrary to Feng and Cheng’s eager participants, other syndicates participate in a younger and reluctant market.

On Monday, approximately 10,000 authorities arrested 802 suspects in China for child-trafficking and freed 181 children, who are often sold for adoption or labor.  These children were allegedly auctioned off to the highest-bidder for roughly $7,700 each.

In 2011, the Public Security Ministry released a report stating that the police have recovered tens of thousands of abducted women and children.  It highlighted a raid against a syndicate  trafficking Chinese women into Angola for prostitution that resulted in 19 rescued and 16 arrested.

“We have zero tolerance when it comes to child trafficking and will make the utmost efforts to make sure that every trafficker is caught,” said Chen Shiqu, the ministry’s Anti-Human Trafficking Director.

According to BBC, some believe that child-trafficking is the product of China’s one-child policy and lax adoption laws.  It has allegedly created a “thriving underground market,” stated Martin Patience of BBC.

Despite the reason behind its existence, human trafficking remains a profitable and strong market for organized crime.

 For further information, please see:

Taipei Times – NIA cracks human trafficking group – 11 July  2012

XinHua News – Police pledge to fight child trafficking – 7 July 2012

BBC News – Chinese police ‘smash’ trafficking gangs frees 181 – 6 July 2012

The Independent – Over 800 held after police break child-trafficking ring – 6 July 2012

Forbes – China Vice Busts Human Trafficking Ring – 23 June 2012


Bangladesh Denies Human Rights Watch Report

By Jenna Furman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DHAKA, Bangladesh — On July 4, 2012, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report stating that detainees being held for their involvement in the 2009 government mutiny in Bangladesh were suffering from serious human rights abuses at the hands of Bangladesh’s special police force, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

Members of the Rapid Action Battalion, Bangladesh's elite police force, suspected of various human rights violations. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

Nearly 3,000 paramilitary border guards are on trial for a 2009 mutiny which killed 74 people including 57 military commanders.

Thousands have already been found guilty of involvement in the mutiny in mass military trials. They face jail sentences for up to seven years and those who are also convicted of killing, rape or arson await the death penalty.

During the February 25-26, 2009 mutiny, Bangladeshi paramilitary border guards attacked force headquarters in Dhaka and spread their attack to surrounding towns. The mutiny occurred two months after the election of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Hasina initially offered amnesty to the mutineers to end the rebellion but rescinded his offer when dozens of bodies were found in sewers and mass graves.

Following the revolt, the army and other security organizations detained thousands of suspects.

HRW reported that at least 47 of the paramilitary border guards awaiting mass trials for their alleged involvement in the 2009 mutiny have died from maltreatment while those that remain have been tortured through beatings or electric shock.

Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director, Brad Adams, called the trial process “fundamentally flawed” and stated that suspects were being interrogated in secret locations. HRW calls for the Bangladesh government to establish an independent task force to address the human rights abuses and to close all secret, unofficial interrogation locations.

HRW claims that torture is in widespread use throughout the governmental forces of Bangladesh including the country’s army, special police force, and main intelligence agency.

HRW’s report refers to Bangladesh’s RAB as a “death squad” resulting from their suspected involvement in the human rights’ abuses. By May of this year, HRW stated that almost 200 people had died in RAB operations since early 2009 from extrajudicial killings or torture.

The RAB has called the HRW report’s allegations baseless and the Bangladesh government denies all allegations of torture or extrajudicial killings.

On July 6, the Ministry of Home Affairs charged HRW with conspiring against Bangladesh. They also demanded that the HRW withdraw the report which they deemed unfair “meddling in the internal affairs of a country.”

The Bangladeshi government states that the trial is being held in a “fair and transparent manner” and that the accused are enjoying full legal support.

According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the Bangladesh government plans to arrest members of human rights organizations and activists who were suspected of providing information for the HRW report. The government plans to charge these activists with treason and sedition among other criminal charges.

The Bangladesh government hopes that the mass military trials will be completed by the end of the year.

For further information, please see:

The Daily Star – It’s Part of an International Conspiracy: Ministers Slam HR Watch Report on BDR Trial, RAB, Human Rights Violation – 7 July 2012

Asian Human Rights Commission – Bangladesh: A call for Urgent Intervention for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Bangladesh – 6 July 2012

Human Rights Watch – Bangladesh: Torture, Deaths of Jailed Mutiny Suspects: Mass Trials Violate Right to Fair Trial for Accused in 2009 Violence – 4 July 2012

NY Times – Bangladesh: Rights Group Cites Abuses in Mass Trials of Guards – 4 July 2012

Reuters – Bangladeshi “Death Squad” Tortures Mutiny Suspects – HRW – 4 July 2012

Washington Post – Rights Group Urges Bangladesh to Stop ‘Unfair Trials’ of Border Guards in 2009 Mutiny – 4 July 2012