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


Indian Police Kills Alleged Maoist Rebels in Chhattisgarh

By Jenna Furman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW DELHI, India—Last Thursday the Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) killed twenty alleged Maoist rebels in the central state of Chhattisgarh.

Members of the Central Reserve Police Force being briefed at a base in Chhattisgarh. (Photo Courtesy of NY Times)

Nineteen of the rebels died at the scene of the clash, another died shortly thereafter at a nearby hospital. Six of the paramilitary police officers were wounded in the attack.

The CRPF and the State police were undergoing a counter-insurgency operation late June 29 in dense forests located in the Maoist-dominated Bijapur district. The joint governmental forces planned to intercept a Maoist company at Silger in the Sukma district but encountered alleged Maoist rebels a mere three kilometers from their camp.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist rebels as the biggest internal security challenge facing India.

Maoist rebels are active in more than a third of India’s districts. They have been mobilizing throughout India in an attempt to form a people’s government. The Maoist insurgents fight for the rights of India’s poor peasants and laborers.

In the past two years, 1611 people have died in thousands of incidents alleged to be part of the Maoist rebellion in India.

Following the June 29 encounter, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram praised the combined State and CRPF forces for their courage and skill in addressing the insurgency.

The Indian police stated that a large number of arms and ammunition were recovered from the area where the fire-fight began, some of which were the homemade variety of Maoist rebels. They also stated that the wounding of six of their officers provides proof enough that the encounter was not “fake” as the Opposition Congress declared three days following the incident.

Local tribal villagers have protested the police’s claim that Maoist insurgents were the victims of police fire but state that those killed were innocent villagers. Activists are calling the incident a “cold-blooded murder” of tribal villagers including women and children.

Former Delhi high court Chief Justice Sachar and other activists demanded a judicial inquiry into the alleged fire-fight between the police and Maoist rebels. Activists state that a delegation with President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will soon take place.

Their sentiment is echoed by Indians who have lost faith in India’s police system – a system where imagination substitutes for information, according to one police officer.

The chief of Central Reserve Police Force, K. Vijay Kumar stated, “We identified the Maoist and conveyed to the media on the same day. We have used extreme restraint.” When asked about the death of a teenage girl in the skirmish between police and alleged rebels, Kumar responded, “A bullet is gender blind, a bullet is age blind.”

A magisterial inquiry into the sequence of events surrounding the killings has been ordered.

For further information, please see:

The Hindu – Chhattisgarh Congress Contradicts Chidambaram on Bijapur Encounter – 2 July 201

NY Times – Controversy Grows in India Over Police Killing of Alleged Maoists – 2 July 2012

The Times of India – Chhattisgarh Maoist Encounter: Activists call it cold-blooded murder, CRPF denies allegations – 2 July 2012

BBC News – India Police Kill ’17 Maoists’ in Chhattisgarh – 29 June 2012


The Khmer Rouge Trial Faces A Few Obstacles

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia– Time is of the essence in the Khmer Rouge trial.  According to experts, funding and health threaten the trial of Khmer Rouge’s three surviving members for the deaths of approximately 2 million people.

King Guek Eav, the prison chief. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

Nuon Chea, the chief advocate, Khieu Samphan, the head of state, and Ieng Sary, the foreign minister, face charges that include genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The Khmer Rouge, a Communist movement, is responsible for the execution, torture, forced labor, and starvation of millions from 1975 to 1979.  Survivors have waited a very long time for the prosecution of those liable.

“The victims, especially myself, we suffer for too long,” said Marie Chea, now 60 years old.  “I lost my family, my mom, my dad, my brothers and sisters.  I suffer, suffer, even when I am back home — I say home because I am in the United States more than 30 years.”

In 2006, voluntary contributions from various nations paid for the existing tribunal.  However, since its creation, the tribunal has cost more than $160 million and this year faces a $22 million budget decrease.  Financial stress aside, the court faces other dilemmas.

Seven months have already passed in the first “mini-trial.”  Since opening statements in late November, the court has only held trial hearings on 78 days.  On Thursday, it adjourned for about a month.  To date, the tribunal has only completed one case, the sentence of S-21’s prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav, to life imprisonment.

In an effort to expedite the process, judges of a UN-supported court in Phnom Penh have divided the intricate case into smaller trials, thus leaving the most serious crimes for later proceedings.

In addition to funding troubles and slow pace, the ailing health of the Khmer Rouge’s senior members and their ability to endure the entire trial is a grave concern.  Last month, the hearings were postponed for a week because 86 year old Ieng Sary was hospitalized for bronchitis.

“This is it, this is the trial. Nobody believes there’s going to be a second phase,” voiced Anne Heindel, a legal consultant to the Documentation Center of Cambodia.  Moreover, according to Jakarta Globe, Heindel fears of a “narrow judgment” that would veil “the story of what happened under the Khmer Rouge.”

The first trial piece centers on the forced transfer of city inhabitants to rural work sites.  Shortly after the evacuation, the regime allegedly killed thousands of “enemies.” The prosecution has twice requested that the judges include this crime among others in the first trial.

For many Cambodians, far worse crimes- mass purges, forced marriages, and torture – under the 1975-1979 regime may never be heard.  As Heindel stated, unaddressed crimes “would greatly diminish the legacy of this court.”

For further information, please see:

Jakarta Globe- Fear Grow for Early End to Khmer Rouge Trial- 24 June 12

The Guardian-Kmer Rouge leaders go on trial in Cambodia– 26 June 12

The Huffington Post- Khmer Rouge Trial: Kaing Guek Eav, Chief Jailer, Gets Life In Prison– 12 Feb. 12

The New York Times-Survivors Seek Answers at Khmer Rouge Trial– 20 Nov. 12


Chinese Authorities Bar Artist’s Attendance in Courtroom

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch, Asia

BEIJING, China -Wednesday, Chinese authorities prevented artist Ai Weiwei from attending his company’s first court hearing against Beijing tax authorities.  According to Weiwei, they proffered no explanation.

Weiwei denied court access. (Photo Courtesy of NY Times)

“This society has become a scary and dangerous one now, because there are too many things that violate people’s rights and that happen with no explanation,” stated Weiwei.

Despite police officers’ attempts to bar many Weiwei supporters from leaving their homes, hundreds were still able to rally outside the Chaoyang District Court.

In 2011, Chinese authorities detained Weiwei for three months.  In addition, the government sanctioned Weiwei’s design company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., to a 15M yuan ($2.35M) fine for back taxes.  Weiwei’s wife and legal representative, Lu Qing, has spearheaded an appeal on behalf of the company against the fine.  Qing has also filed a separate action alleging witness and evidence mishandling by the tax bureau.

Through his work and political activism, the 54-year-old artist has earned the reverence of most in both the political and artistic communities outside of China.  The Art Review deemed Weiwei the most powerful artist in the world.

“Ai’s activities have allowed artists to move away from the idea that they work within a privileged zone limited by the walls of a gallery or museum.  They have reminded his colleagues and the world at large of the fact that freedom of expression is a basic right of any human being.”

Political activists and other Weiwei supporters purport that a direct correlation exists between his punishment and his criticism of the Chinese government.

Since his release, the authorities have forbidden Weiwei to travel outside of China.  Moreover, Weiwei is under steady surveillance.

“They didn’t return my passport, I just realized that,” Weiwei said.  “And they didn’t return my computers. You know, because for subversion of state power, they want to try to find every trace. But they can’t find anything, I guess. I mean, they owe me to say sorry. But of course they would never do it. It’s over, but it’s never totally over. You are still not allowed to go abroad.”

In addition to the pending litigation, Weiwei may face other charges: pornography, bigamy, and illicit exchange of foreign currency.  However, there is no certainty whether the authorities will pursue these suspected crimes.

Despite authorities’ alleged attempts to stop or at least deter criticism directed at them, Weiwei continues to fight his censure through banned social networks such as Twitter.


For further information, please see:

NPR-Ai Weiwei Says He is Barred From Leaving China– 21 June 2012

Voice of America-Ai Weiwei: Still Can’t Leave China– 21 June 2012

Guardian-Ai Weiwei barred from court hearing by Chinese police– 20 June 2012

New York Times- Chinese Artist Is Barred From His Own Hearing-20 June 2012