China’s Government Forced to Address Water Pollution

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

BEIJING, China – As World Water Day just passed, it seems fitting to address the water pollution and water shortages plaguing southeast Asia. China has a particular difficulty with pollution and has begun to take action to counteract its consequences. Many Chinese towns and cities rely on polluted water sources, and the pollution’s effects have begun to materialize.

A severely polluted Shaying River in Henan Province, China. Photo courtesy of Dengjia/CNN.

Residents of Dawu, located in China’s Henan province, say that they are being killed by their water supply. A major water source for the region is the Ying River, which has been heavily polluted for over a decade.

The river’s poisoned water has, over time, spread its toxins to underground water sources including those used for irrigation. A villager by the name of Wu Zongjun claims to personally know twenty individuals diagnosed with cancer in his village since 2010. In 2013, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report which confirmed the correlation between the water pollution and increases in cancer diagnoses in the region.

Unfortunately, the water crisis extends far beyond the Dawu village, as many Chinese towns and cities face significant water pollution. Moreover, cities and towns, including the nations capital, suffer from frequent water shortages.

Other governments around the globe face similar difficulties in supplying clean water sources. Nearly one third of the people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have a safe drinking water supply. The World Water Council has called on governments to invest adequate amounts of their budgets towards clean water projects. World Water Day has reminded global citizens of the importance of spreading awareness to try and make a difference. There is still much to be done to supply all in need with clean water.

For more information, please see: 

CNN – Can China fix its mammoth water crisis before it’s too late? – 21 March, 2017

ABC News – African governments urged to spend more on clean water – 22 March, 2017

Inter Press Service – Asia’s Water Politics Near the Boiling Point – 21 March, 2017 

Eco-Business – Fighting China’s war on pollution – 20 March, 2017

Philippine President Accused of Having Ordered Extra-Judicial Killings During Time as Mayor

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

MANILA, Philippines– A retired Philippine police officer has confessed to leading a death squad on the direct orders of Rodrigo Duterte, before he became president. The retired police officer, Arthur Lascañas, spoke at a news conference on February 20. Mr. Lascañas alleges that President Duterte had personally ordered extrajudicial killings during his time as mayor of Davao. Mr. Lascañas is the second person to speak out against President Duterte. Last year, Edgar Matobato made similar claims to have received orders from Durterte to commit extrajudicial killings during his time as mayor.

Arthur Lascañas speaks at a news conference alleging that he led a death squad under direct orders of Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte when he was mayor of Davao City. Photo courtesy of: Associated Press.

These accusations come only weeks after President Duterte was accused of sponsoring extrajudicial killings in his own state-sponsored war on drugs. In early 2017, Amnesty International warned that the Philippine police are “systematically planning” such killings against criminals and drug suspects.

The recent accusations against Duterte claim that the former mayor established groups of hit-men to find and kill small-time drug dealers and petty criminals. Mr. Lascañas explained that members of these groups were paid between $400 and $1,000 for the killings, a price dependent on the status of the individuals murdered. Mr. Lascañas said that the groups received allowances for these efforts directly from Duterte’s office as mayor. Eventually, the groups were encouraged to kill not only drug offenders and criminals, but any individual critical of Duterte’s rule.

Mr. Lascañas confirmed earlier statements by Mr. Matobato which claimed that Duterte called for the murder of Jun Pala, who was gunned down near his home in 2003. Jun Pala was a radio commentator who was famously critical of Duterte during his time as mayor of Davao.

Philippine Senator Leila de Lima, a staunch critic of Duterte, urged the country’s Cabinet to declare their president unfit to rule, describing him as a “sociopathic serial killer”. De Lima is now facing arrest on charges that she was involved in the drug trade, accusations which she says were master-minded as a result of her leading an investigation of the recent allegations against Duterte during his time as mayor.

For more information, please see:

New York Times – Ex-Officer in Philippines Says He Led Death Squad at Duterte’s Behest – 20 February, 2017

Reuters – Philippine senator urges Cabinet to stop ‘sociopathic serial killer’ Duterte – 21 February, 2017

Japan Times – Ex-cop says Duterte, while Davao mayor, paid him and others to kill crime suspects – 20 February, 2017

CNN – Former Davao Death Squad leader: Duterte ordered bombings – 20 February, 2017

More Than 7,000 Are Dead From Philippine Drug War

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

MANILA, Philippines- In July 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte launched a “war” on the drug trade, authorizing police to crackdown and even open fire when threatened by suspects. More than 7,000 people have died since the launch of the anti-drug campaign.

More than 7,000 individuals have been killed in the Philippines since July 2016. Photo courtesy of: AFP
More than 7,000 individuals have been killed in the Philippines since July 2016. Photo courtesy of: AFP

In early 2017, Amnesty International accused the Philippine police of “systematically planning” extrajudicial killings and of being unnecessarily brutal in achieving its goals. The organization released a report this year in which it outlines the actions of President Duterte and his police force. The report even suggests that the killings could constitute crimes against humanity.

Eyewitnesses and families of the deceased have confirmed some unregulated and haphazard actions by the police. Amnesty International has documented several cases where witnesses described alleged drug offenders shouting their surrender at police, often on their knees or other compliant positions. It is reported that police still gunned them down.

Other organizations, including Human Rights Watch, are also concerned about the humanitarian offenses. Human Rights Watch recently called for the United Nations to lead an independent international investigation into the alleged unlawful killings by the Philippine police.

Not a single officer is known to have been prosecuted for extrajudicial killings or related crimes. President Duterte has not addressed any of these concerns. On January 29, Durterte stated in a news conference that he intends to continue his war on drugs until the last day of his term. Experts are concerned that this is an indication that the abuses will continue indefinitely.

On January 30, 2016, National Police Director-General Ronald dela Rosa declared a pause on the operation. The break is meant for “internal cleansing” following the alleged brutal killing of a South Korean businessman by the Philippine’s anti-drug police. Interestingly, nearly 100 Philippine police officers have been released by the department since the start of the year because they were found to be using drugs themselves.

It is unclear what is to come, but officials have made no indication to roll back on its attempts at cleansing the nation of its drugs and drug users.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Amnesty: Philippine police ‘planned’ drug war killings – 1 February, 2017

Amnesty International Report – “If you are poor, you are killed” – 2017

Human Rights Watch – Philippines: Police ‘Drug War’ Killings Need Independent Probe – 30 January, 2017

The Wire – Philippines Dismisses Nearly 100 Policemen For Drug Abuse – 12 February, 2017

UN Calls on Cambodian Government to Release Detainees

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

Phnom Penh, CAMBODIA — In May 2016, the government of Cambodia detained five human rights defenders. The government alleges that these individuals criminally assisted a woman in making false claims while under investigation by the Cambodian Anti-Corruption Unit. On January 25, 2017, two human rights experts called on the Cambodian government to release the detainees, as the charges against them were ruled “arbitrary” by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Photo Courtesy of: UN Photo
The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Photo Courtesy of: UN Photo

Cambodia is a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which explicitly prohibits the “use of criminal provisions as a pretext to suppress and prevent the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression and to silence human rights defenders.” In May 2016, UN human rights experts sent a joint urgent appeal to the Cambodian government on the status of the five detainees. The request has yet to be addressed.

Experts are concerned about a lack of transparency in the Cambodian legislature as well as conflicts between Cambodia’s political parties. In September 2016, a spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern on this topic, noting that there is a high degree of intimidation and opposition between the country’s political groups.

Despite an international call for action, the Cambodian government has yet to respond and continues to detain the five human rights activists.

For more information, please see:

UN News Centre – Cambodia: UN experts call for immediate release of five human rights defenders – 25 January, 2017

JURIST – UN rights experts call for immediate release of 5 human rights defenders in Cambodia – 25 January, 2017

Human Rights Watch – Cambodia: Drop Farcical Investigation of Human Rights Defenders – 7 February, 2017

UN – International Convention on Civil and Political Rights – 19 December, 1966

Concerns Over China’s Labor Practices

By: Nicole Hoerold
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China– China, the world’s biggest manufacturing powerhouse, has never had a strong reputation for its working conditions. China is able to offer competitive prices because it’s manufacturers cut back on other expenses, like worker’s benefits and quality work spaces.

Chinese couriers stand by a pile of packages out for delivery. Photo courtesy of: NY Times
Chinese couriers stand by a pile of packages out for delivery. Photo courtesy of: NY Times

China’s courier services have recently drawn attention in the international media. The world’s largest market for package delivery employs largely unskilled workers, and the job can be low-paying and difficult. Labor activists and legal experts are concerned that many couriers face harsh working conditions and unmanageable hours of employment. Almost one quarter of Beijing’s couriers work more than 12 hours each day, seven days a week, according to a survey conducted by Beijing Jiaotong University.

Most couriers make between $300 and $600 each month, a salary roughly equal to wages earned in China’s migrant factories. Chinese workers lack the right to organize their own worker’s unions. Instead, collective representation of workers falls under the sole authority of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, an organization of officials appointed by China’s communist party. This poses the concern that individuals have no remedy for grievances like low wages and poor working conditions.

Recently, China has showed some interest in expanding investments in Africa. Currently, China relies on Africa to supply a constant influx of natural resources to sustain its massive manufacturing industry. China, in turn, sells its manufactured products back to African states, builds infrastructure, and provides foreign direct investments. Critics of China’s policies in Africa are concerned that China is establishing itself as a colonial power. Human rights organizations are paying close attention to ensure that China’s labor practices, specifically the sate’s tendency to neglect labor rights, doesn’t carry over into the African labor sector.

For more information, please see:

New York Times – For Couriers, China’s E-Commerce Boom Can Be a Tough Road – 31 January, 2017

World Politics Review – China’s Complicated History With Workers’ Rights – 25 January, 2017

Harvard Political Review – China’s Investment in Africa: The New Colonialism? – 3 February, 2017

Financial Times – China labour unrest spreads to ‘new economy’ – 1 February, 2017