China Reportedly Halts Repatriation of North Korean Refugees

By Brianne Yantz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Reports began to surface last week that China has suspended its policy of deporting North Korean defectors back home in accordance with a plea from South Korean officials.  The move is said to have been in response to North Korea’s failure to inform China about the specific plans regarding its recent missile launch earlier this month and, if true, indicates the Chinese government’s displeasure with North Korea’s intentional incitement of international tensions.

Activists Protest China's Repatriation of North Koreans
Activists in South Korea protesting China's repatriation of North Koreans earlier this year. (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Allegedly, China has been demanding that North Korea refrain from acts of international aggression and provocation, which the North Korean government has evidently ignored.

Before this recent fall out, China had been dealing with North Korean defectors under its domestic laws, classifying them as “illegal economic migrants” and deporting them back home.  These actions have drawn heavy international criticism from human rights activists, who called the repatriations inhumane.  It is widely known that North Korea has been torturing and, in some instances, executing its repatriated refugees, but until now, China had been ignoring these practices.  It is uncertain exactly if and when China purportedly began to halt these deportations.

The number of North Korean defectors entering China has grown intensely since the death of former leader Kim Jong Il last December.  According to a source working for the Chinese authorities, at it’s height, as many as thirty North Koreans had been escaping to China on a daily basis.

Now, according to reports, tensions between China and North Korea have led Chinese officials to halt its practice of returning all captured defectors.  Furthermore, in a move against North Korea, China has allegedly allowed five North Korean defectors who had been under arrest in a diplomatic office in China for the last three years to leave for Seoul, South Korea earlier this month.

At this time, it is unclear whether North Korea’s blatant disregard for China is the sole reason why China has supposedly halted deportations or for how long this suspected suspension will last.  However, in late March, Chinese President Hu Jintao indicated that China would be more flexible in its deportation policy and that it would be respectful of South Korea’s strong opposition to the mal-treatment of North Korean defectors.

While the U.S. has yet to confirm if these reports are true, State Department spokesman Mark Toner indicated that officials in Washington are hopeful.

“We consistently urge China to adhere to its international obligations as part of the UN Convention on Refugees,” Toner stated.


For more information, please see:

AFP – US Takes China ‘at Word’ on N. Korea Sanctions – 20 April 2012

Voice of America – Panetta: China Assisted North Korea Missile Program – 20 April 2012

Daily Yomiuri – China Stops Deportations of N. Koreans – 19 April 2012

Chosunilbo – China Halts Repatriation of N.Korean Defectors – 19 April 2012

Korea Herald – China Said to Have Stopped Repatriating N. Korean Refugees – 18 April 2012

Rights Group Calls on Pakistan to End Forced Disappearances

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Following the failure of authorities to present two missing individuals to the Supreme Court, Amnesty International is calling on Pakistan to identify hundreds of people who are believed to have “disappeared” at the hands of Pakistani agencies.

Pakistan has been called upon to end the occurrence of enforced disappearances (Photo Courtesy of Amnesty International).

A person is said to have “disappeared” when they are detained by government officials who then deny knowledge of their whereabouts.

Amnesty International noted the case of Mazar ul Haq who disappeared in 2007 after being accused of attacking Army Headquarters run by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency.

Although ul Haq and the ten other men arrested with him were cleared by the Anti-Terrorism Court, they went missing again after being kidnapped from a high security jail.

Since being kidnapped in May 2010, four of the eleven men have died in custody. While Pakistan’s intelligence agencies maintain that the men died naturally, the attorney of one of the deceased has stated that his client was tortured to death.

Mazar ul Haq appeared in court in February 2012, four years after disappearing, surprising his family who did not whether he was alive or dead during the time he was missing.

Ul Haq and six other men were presented to the Supreme Court looking severely emaciated and some had urine bags protruding from their pants.

The allegations of abuse in combination with increased public pressures has prompted the Pakistani Supreme Court to not only order intelligence agencies to explain the poor conditions that the remaining seven men arrested are being kept in but to also order the creation  of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances.

Despite the creation of this commission in 2010, disappearances continue to be reported.

Although the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has been attempting to identify the number of those kept in secret detention for years, they have reported that verifying the actual number has been nearly impossible.

It is estimated, however, that 1,000 people have disappeared at the hands of intelligence agencies since 2001. Of the estimated 1,000, approximately five hundred are still missing and the dead bodies of dissidents are regularly found.

Enforced disappearances were rare in Pakistan before September 11, 2001. Following the attacks on the United States, authorities began using the disappearances against activists advocating for ethnic rights and justified such action as necessary for the “war on terror” led by the United States.


For more information, please see:

Amnesty International – Pakistan Must Account for Missing Victims of Enforced Disappearances – 16 April 2012

Pakistan Daily Times – No Forced Disappearance Should Escape Attention: HRCP – 3 April 2012

The Guardian –Pakistan’s Spy Agency ISI Faces Court Over Disappearances – 9 February 2012

Amnesty International – Denying the Undeniable: Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan – 22 July 2008

Chinese Prime Minister Fights Corruption

By Greg Donaldson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Prime Minister Wen Jiabao is taking a stand against corruption within the Chinese government and its officers. Mr. Wen was quoted in the Qiushi (a conservative Communist Party journal) when he stated “the government must hold officials accountable for corruption that occurs on their watch and make the results of corruption investigations open to public inspection.”

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has vowed to fight corruption within the Chinese government (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

Mr. Wen has taken strong stances against corruption since the February scandal surrounding former Chongqing party leader Bo Xilai. Mr. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, is accused of murdering Neil Heywood, a British businessman. It is believed that the Bo’s and Mr. Heywood had a good relationship until a financial dispute. It is alleged that after the financial dispute Gu Kailai arranged for the killing of Mr. Heywood.

As a result of Mr. Heywood’s death, Mr. Bo was removed from his political positions and party officials released a report which accused him of “serious disciplinary violations.” Government officials have hinted that Mr. Bo will have criminal charges filed against him in the future.

Analysts believe Bo’s case creates a major dilemma for top officials. If the government only reveals small portions of evidence against Bo it will lead many to believe he was removed solely for political reasons. If the accusations are very serious in nature, many will ask how Bo was able to become so powerful. Furthermore, people will begin to wonder how powerful other government officials are and what activities they may be involved in reports The Guardian.

Prime Minister Wen has proposed several focuses that he believes will help halt corruption in the government. In the article published by Qiushi, Mr. Wen demanded that priorities be given to the reforms in the administrative examination and approval system, the allocation of public resources, and many other services provided by the government.

One of the changes Mr. Wen hopes to see in the current system is local governments immediately responding to and investigating problems reported by the people and the media, and publicizing the results of various investigations in a timely manner.”

Mr. Wen explained the importance of upholding the law throughout the country. He explained “China is a socialist country ruled by law, and the dignity and authority of the law cannot be trampled… there is no special citizen before the law. It does not allow any special party members to override the law within the party.”

For more information please see:

International Business Times – Wen Jiabao Again Warns of Threat Posed By Corruption – 16 April 2012

New York Times – Prime Minister Calls for Corruption Crackdown in China – 16 April 2012

China Daily – Premier Wen Vows Greater Anti-Corruption Resolve – 15 April 2012

The Guardian – Wen Jiabao Promises Crackdown on Corruption in China – 15 April 2012

Malaysia Introduces New Law to Replace Internal Security Act

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

KUALA LUMPUR – The Malaysian government has proposed a new law, the Security Offense Bill, to replace the former Internal Security Act but many fear that the new proposal will lead to future human rights abuses.

Malaysia has proposed a bill, the Security Offense Act, to replace the former Internal Security Act (Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch).

Creation of the proposal, which was introduced to parliament on April 10, began seven months ago after Prime Minister Najib Razak promised to scrap the Internal Security Act.

Despite the Prime Minister’s claims the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, Phil Robinson, doubts that the proposed law will improve the condition of human rights in Malaysia. He states, “while the new law has improvements, the authorities still hold too much power to detain people on broad grounds, for too long, and without judicial oversight.”

For example, the proposed bill allows an individual to be detained for twenty-eight days without being brought before a judge, the ISA allowed for sixty days, and the individual is not required access to an attorney for forty-eight hours after arrest.

In addition, the proposal prohibits arrests that are based solely on political beliefs or activity but defines activity narrowly allowing the opportunity for law enforcement to arrest based on other peaceful political actions.

Police are given extensive power to search private property and are permitted to use electronic monitoring devices on those released from detention.

This power is especially unsettling given that the Security Offense Act authorizes in court use of any information obtained from communication interception, raids and investigations. As such, there is a presumption that some evidence admitted into trial will have been illegally obtained.

Furthermore, the Security Offenses Bill allows an arrest to be made without a warrant if the police officer has “reason to believe” that the person is involved in a security offense.

Individuals charged with a security offense will be denied bail under a blanket provision included in the proposal and the prosecution will be allowed to keep certain witnesses from the defendant and their attorneys.

Even if the defendant is acquitted, the proposal allows them to be detained until all appeals have been exhausted which can sometimes take years.

Despite the repeal of the fifty-two year old Internal Security Act, Malaysian media has reported that the Prime Minister has no intention of repealing the Sedition Act which has been increasingly used to detain activists and protestors.

The continued existence of the Sedition Act has led some to believe, including Wong Chin of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, that  “[the new laws] are far from sufficient, since the Sedition Act is still out there.”

Parliament is expected to approve the proposal as early as next week. If it is approved, it will be sent to the upper house of the legislature before being signed into law by the Malaysia monarch, Sultan Abdul Halim of Kedah.

The Internal Security Act was a relic from British colonial rule era and was designed to combat the Communist threat by allowing political opponents to be detained without a trial.

Between 2000 and 2010 the Internal Security Act was used to detain approximately 4, 500 people.


For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Malaysia: Security Bill Threatens Basic Liberties – 10 April 2012

The New York Times – Malaysia Weighs End to Indefinite Detention – 10 April 2012

The Wall Street Journal – Malaysian Activists Still Worry Over Country’s Security Laws – 10 April 2012

The Wall Street Journal  – Malaysia Proposes to Ease  Strict Security Law – 10 April 2012

Tibetan Anger Continues

By Greg Donaldson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DHARMSALA, India — More than thirty-three Tibetans have set themselves on fire in recent protests against the Chinese government. The Tibetans believe the Chinese government is attempting to destroy their identity and force Tibetans to conform to the culture the government has established.

A Tibetan Monk sets himself on fire in protest of the Chinese government (Photo Courtesy of Boing Boing)

The protests and self-immolations began in China but now have spread to the nearby country of India. Many Tibetans who have been exiled from China reside in India.

Since last Monday two Tibetans have died from setting themselves on fire in India. The self-immolations came in protest of the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s to India to attend an economic summit. Each protestor set themselves on fire and then ran to a public place where they could be heard protesting the Chinese government. Both demonstrators were rushed to the hospital after the fires were extinguished but each died in local hospitals.

The first demonstrator, Jamphel Yeshi, set himself on fire last Monday. By Tuesday afternoon more than two-hundred supporters marched through the city center of Dharamsala, India proclaiming Mr. Yeshi a martyr. The supporters carried Tibetan flags and posters with several images of Mr. Yeshi’s body on fire.

Tenzing Namdak, a man who participated in the Tuesday march told reporters that Mr. Yeshi “self-immolated for the cause of Tibet.” He continued “all the Tibetans have tried so many ways to get the attention, and somebody had to take the lead.”

The march continued throughout the upper part of the city with the crowd chanting “What do we want? Freedom!” “United Nations , please support us.” “Stop the killing.”

The second demonstrator, Lobsang Jamyang, gave three messages to a friend he dined with before self-immolating himself. The first message was that Tibetans in his village should work hard to preserve their language against the onslaught of Mandarin. The second message was that a couple in his village should reunite after being recently divorced. The third message was that Tibetans should be strong against China and not be cowards.

China’s crackdown seems to have created a sense of nationalism among the Tibetans. Kelsang Nyima, who left Tibet in 1998 and recently returned, to his Tibetan village in China, said he “can strongly feel the growing sense of nationalism among Tibetans. It is a huge change.”

Each Wednesday across the Himalayan plateau, Tibetans wear traditional dress, only speak in Tibetan, and avoid purchasing from shops run by Han Chinese.

The government controlled newspaper, The China Daily, has proposed a solution for the Tibetans: “embrace the goodwill of the Chinese government.”

For more information please see:

Boing Boing – Tibet is Burning: Exiles Mourn Latest String of Self-Immolation Suicide Protests – 2 April 2012

News Track India – Tibetan Exiles Mourn Recent Self-Immolation Incidents – 1 April 2012

Washington Post – Self-Immolations Reflect Rising Tibetan Anger – 1 April 2012

New York Times – Tibetan Exiles Rally Around Delhi Self-Immolator – 28 March 2012