TIBET SEES THREE SELF-IMMOLATIONS IN THREE DAYS

by Hibberd Kline
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – A 32 year old mother, an 18 year old boy and a middle school student each died after setting themselves on fire in protest of Chinese rule in Tibet over the past three days.

The recent string of self-immolations has largely been carried out by Buddhist monks who felt that the Chinese Government suppresses their religion. (Photo courtesy of the Guardian).

The three protesters lit themselves on fire in separate incidents in two different provinces in China’s restive Northwestern region.

The first of the weekend’s immolations took place on Saturday, when a student set herself on fire at a vegetable market in Gansu province’s Maqu county. The girl died at the scene.

Radio Free Asia reported the girl to be “in middle school.” London-based group, Free Tibet, later identified her as 20 year old Tsering Kyi.

Free Tibet quoted the student as saying before she died that Tibetans were burning themselves in Aba, a town in Sichuan province as well as in other areas under a widespread security clampdown by the Chinese authorities.

According to Tibetan exiles, unidentified market-goers threw stones at the girl’s burning body.

On Sunday, in an apparently uncoordinated second incident a 32 year old woman by the name of Rinchen lit herself on fire in front of a police station in Aba prefecture in Sichuan province. The act was especially symbolic to Tibetans because, like many police stations in heavily Tibetan populated areas in China, the station was by the main gate to a Buddhist monastery.  China is rapidly expanding its security presence in Tibet and neighboring Xinjiang  and it has become a common practice for the government to build police stations inside or next to Buddhist monasteries in order to maintain closer control over Tibetan religious leaders.

The particular monastery that Rinchen chose is known as the Kirti Monastery and is significant because it has been central to a recent string of protests and more than twenty self-immolations undertaken by Tibetans in protest of Chinese rule. Rinchen reportedly quoted a Tibetan monk, who is currently exiled in India, calling for the return of the Dali Lama and freedom for Tibet.

According to Free Tibet, Rinchen was the mother of four children.

The third self-immolation was carried out by an 18 year old boy identified by Free Tibet as Dorjee, who set fire to himself in the town of Chara in Sichuan province on Monday.

According to a Tibetan in exile in India, Dorjee set himself on fire and then marched from a nearby bridge to a government building, where he collapsed and died.

Local authorities refused to comment on any of the three incidents.

Tibet has been ruled by China since 1950, when Chinese troops occupied the region. The Chinese Government claims that the self-immolations have been carried out by “terrorists.”

The back-to-back immolations took place on the eve of the annual opening of the Chinese Parliament. This year’s parliamentary session is expected to effect the transfer of power to a younger generation of leaders within the Chinese communist party. The planned transfer has put much of the government in a heightened state of alert and has led to a sizable increase in China’s security presence in its restive northwestern region.

In addition to the enhanced security ahead of this year’s Parliamentary session, security is traditionally bolstered in Tibetan-populated areas in March, which marks the anniversaries of the 1959 uprising, which sparked the flight of the Dali Lama, and the anti-government protests that took place in the regional capital of Lhasa in 2008.

Human rights activists claim that China’s attempts to tighten its grip on the region merely exacerbates the problem by alienating the indigenous Tibetan populous.

Last Thursday, the regional government ordered authorities inside Tibet to increase control over mobile phones and the internet, both of which are already monitored in the region and have reportedly even been blocked completely in some areas.

Foreign journalists are largely banned from entering the region. Therefore the recent increase in censorship makes events in the region even more difficult to independently confirm.

Human rights activists and Tibetan exiles claim that the Chinese Government oppresses Tibetans and that it is deliberately undermining Tibetan religion and culture. The Chinese Government rejects this, claiming that China has improved the Tibetan economy and improved the lives of people in a “backward” region.

For more information, please see:

BBC News —  Tibetan Women ‘Die after Self-Immolation’ — 05 March 2012

The Guardian — Tibetan Women Set Themselves on Fire, Say Reports — 05 March 2012

The New York Times — Three Tibetans Die after Self-Immolations — 05 March 2012

Radio Free Asia — Third Self-Immolation in Three Days —  05 March 2o12

Voice of America — Reports: Tibetan Teenager Sets Himself on Fire — 05 March 2012

The Washington Post — Reports Say Teenage Tibetan in Sichuan Sets Self on Fire and Dies; Third Immolation in Three Days — 05 March 2012

AP News — Tibetan Woman, Student Set Selves on Fire — 04 March 2012

The Guardian — Tibetan Woman Dies after Setting Herself on Fire in Protest at Chinese Rule — 04 March 2o12

Activist Imprisoned for Exposing China’s ‘Black Jails’

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – A Chinese court has sentenced an activist to eighteen months in a labor camp after he gave journalists information that led them to a “black jail” which is an unofficial detention facility kept by the Chinese government.

A Chinese activist has been sentenced to a labor camp following detention in one of China's black jails (Photo Courtesy of Radio Free Asia).

Zhao Zhenjia was recently sentenced after being detained by Beijing police on January 22.

Chinese authorities claim that Zhao was indicted for fraud based on alleged dealings with rural machinery workers.

According to Chinese activists, those who try to make against the local government are often detained in black jails where they are beaten and harassed by government authorities.

A former black jail detainee expressed their experience when they stated, “[the guards] entered without a word, grabbed me…kneed me in the chest and pounded my lower belly with their fists until I passed out. After it was over I was in pain, but they didn’t leave a mark on my body.”

Another former detainee stated that, “[t]here was no medical treatment [in the black jail]. I’m not very healthy and combined with the disgusting conditions inside [the facility], I was sick every day, but they wouldn’t give me medical treatment and wouldn’t let me go to see a doctor. [A guard] said, ‘You don’t want to die here because your life [to us] isn’t worth one cent. [If] I want you dead, you can die [here] as easily as an ant.’”

A 2009 Human Rights Watch report alleged that Chinese officials regularly take citizens and keep them in unlawful detention facilities maintained in state-owned hotels, nursing homes and psychiatric hospitals.

According to the report local officials create black jails to allow activists to be detained and punished in a way that will not cause these officials to be reprimanded under rules that impose penalties when a large portion of prisoners flow from their areas.

Those hired to guard the prison often subject prisoners to physical violence, theft, extortion, threats and deprivation of food, sleep and medical care.

Minors have not been spared black jail detention in China. Human Rights Watch interviewed a fifteen year old girl who reported that after being abducted and taken to the jail, she was detained for two months and subjected to severe beatings.

Black jails appeared following the government’s abolishment of laws allowing arbitrary detention of non-residents and according to Human Rights Watch the operators of black jails receive payment from the local governments for each person kept in the black jail.

Despite the recent change of government, few expect to see changes in the treatment of activists due to  the need of the new government to assert power and stability over the nation.

For more information, please see:

Radio Free Asia – Labor Camp for Petitioning Activist –  29 February 2012

Reuters – China “Black Jails” Prompt Fears of Wider Security Crackdown – 10 November 2011

Human Rights Watch – China: Secret “Black Jails” hide Severe Rights Abuses – 12 November 2009

Rights Group Concerned About Burma Military Abuse

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – Human Rights Watch has expressed concern that despite Burmese attention to reform and cease-fires with ethnic insurgents, abuse by the military continue.

The Burmese military has been accused of continuing abuses against civilians (Photo Courtesy of Radio Free Asia).

David Mathieson, Human Rights Watch senior researcher on Burma, recently visited Burma and learned that fighting in Kachin State has displaced approximately 70,000 people since last June.

In addition, there have also been reports of sexual violence, the use of weapons against unarmed civilians, destruction of property and forced labor.

Mathieson has also encountered rights abuses by ethnic armed groups who use child soldiers and execute Burmese prisoners of war.

Recently, the use of child soldiers has prompted the U.S. ambassador for human trafficking to demand that Burmese military officers be accountable for involvement in human trafficking.

A 2011 Human Rights Watch report alleged that the Burmese military was colluding with corrections Department officials to gain access to approximately 700 prisoners who the army used as porters who are often forced to risk their life by checking for landmines.

Mathieson further stated that “…with all the changes happening in central Burma, it’s quite alarming that the army is showing absolutely no compunction to change its behavior.”

The Burmese government has continuously denied journalists access to Kachin and other conflict zones which has made it impossible for independent reports to be made regarding the allegations of abuse said to be occurring at the hands of the military.

Under the dominance of the previously ruling military junta, individual freedom was severely restricted. Owning a computer or fax machine without being given prior permission was prohibited and internet access was severely controlled.

Since the civilian government assumed power from the military junta last year, restriction on freedom have been largely lifted and several prominent political prisoners have been released although some remain imprisoned.

Despite these initial reforms, some experts fear that they could be easily reversed considering that many of the laws that were formerly used to repress Burmese citizens have not been repealed.

Failure to repeal the repressive laws means that despite improvements made in individual freedoms, many of the ways in which these freedoms are exercised are still technically illegal and the government could decide to revert to the human rights policies that existed under the military junta.

Another positive sign of reform, however, is that President Thein sein and his administration are expected to allow the National League of Democracy leader Aung San Suu kyi to give a political broadcast. Prior to the broadcast, however, the National League of Democracy is required to produce the text of the broadcase to the censors at the Ministry of Information for their review.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – Burma Awakes to Glasnost: A (Partly) Free Press and (Some) Freedom of Expression – 25 February 2012

Irrawaddy – HRW: Army Abuse Unabated Despite Burma Reforms – 24 February 2012

Radio Free Asia – Burma’s Military ‘As Abusive as Ever’ – 23 February 2012

Voice of America – U.S. Calls for Burma Military to Account for Human Trafficking – 12 January 2012

Activist Warned to End Plan to Develop Peaceful Protest Website

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China –China’s state security police have warned pro-democracy dissident, Qin Yongmin, that he is not to continue his work on plans for a website aimed at promoting peaceful change in the nation.

Qin Yongmin has been threatened by police to end the creation of a website calling for peaceful change in China (Photo Courtesy of Radio Free Asia).

 

Qin was release from prison in November 2010 after serving a twelve year prison term following a conviction for subversion which resulted from his role as co-founder of the China Democracy Party and attempt to have the new party registered.

Since his release, he has been on twenty-four hour surveillance by officials and has been subjected to routine searches of his home and confiscation of his belongings.

In April, Qin was subjected to two home searches in a two week period during which he was threatened and verbally abused by authorities who also confiscated articles written by Qin and notebooks.

This week, Qin reported that he was surrounded by police while leaving a computer store and taken to a police station.

While at the police station, a police officer informed Qin that they had information that he had “…been posting articles overseas and giving interviews to journalists, and that this was against Article 82 of the national security law, and that they were going to punish me for that.”

Qin had intentions to launch a website called “Peaceful Transition Advice” which would be hosted overseas but was told by authorities but he was absolutely forbidden to create the website.

According to Qin, “[t]hey said that if I launched it in the morning, they would arrest me in the afternoon, and that they would pursue the harshest kind of punishment for me.”

The police officer also informed Qin that they were alarmed by a meeting he had held at a restaurant with several political activists.

According to Qin, the meeting was held on the second floor of the restaurant and the police “…took over the entire third floor.” He also reports that he was warned by police that no matter where he went or who he was with, they would know about it.

China’s dissidents have been under increased pressure from authorities since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to imprisoned democracy activist Liu Xiaobo.

Prior to the twelve year sentenced leading to his November release, Qin had been jailed twice before for his political activism. He served an eight year sentence for “anti-revolutionary propaganda and subversion” in 1981 for his involvement in the pro-democracy movement.

Four years later he was sentenced to two years of hard labor in a re-education through labor camp for a writing a document entitled “Peace Charter”.

 

For more information, please see:

Radio Free Asia –  Activist Warned Over Website – 20 February 2012

Asia News – Qin Yongmin, Cofounder of the China Democracy Party Freed Today – 29 November 2010

Human Rights in China – Police Search  Qin Yongmin’s Home – 28 April 2011

Cambodian Workers Faint in Factories

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodian factory workers have been forced to work overtime beyond the limits allowed by law in poorly ventilated buildings contributing to recent incidents of mass fainting.

Cambodian factory workers have been fainting due to poor working conditions and long hours (Photo Courtesy of Radio Free Asia).

The recent faintings have occurred in the country’s textile industry where a union activist claims harmful chemicals are present and at least partially at fault for the fainting of workers.

Approximately 200 factory workers at the Nanguo Garment Co. Ltd. in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh fainted on Monday while working.

Although the Ministry of Labor medical department director has reported that tests reported no signs of toxic chemicals, workers who were taken to the hospital after fainting reported to Free Trade Union of the Kingdom of Cambodia president Chea Mony that the factory had recently sprayed pesticide around the premises.

A female worker explained her experience by stating that “…I saw a few workers faint, and then others. We were shocked, and we all began to cry.” She then added that had felt exhausted and could not move before fainting.

The International Labour Organization’s Better Factories Program has reported that within a six month time span in 2011 at least 1,500 workers from eleven different factories have reported fainting.

In addition, in August almost 300 people fainted in one week while working in a  factory supplying popular clothing store H&M. In addition, another 100 people were reportedly taken to the hospital after fainting at M&V International Manufacturing factory.

Last April, approximately 100 workers fainted at a factory supplying Puma and another forty-nine fainted at the same factory two months later.

Just one week before the mass faintings, workers in Cambodia held a people’s tribunal to investigate the pay and conditions of factories for brands such as H&M and Gap.

Given the history of faintings at a factory supplying H&M products, many were unhappy at the company’s decision not to attend the people’s tribunal.

The minimum wage in Cambodia is $66 per month which is half of what is required to meet the basic needs. As a result, workers are often forced to work ten to thirteen hours a day to get the money that they need to support their families.

 

For more information, please see:

Radio Free Asia – Faintings Blamed on Overwork, Ventilation – 14 February 2012

The Guardian – Cambodian Workers Hold ‘People’s Tribunal’ to Look at Factory Conditions – 2 February 2012

Chinese Dissident Receives Seven Year Sentence for Poem

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – A Chinese dissident was sentenced to seven years in prison for subversion after he wrote a poem calling for the Chinese citizens to vote with their feet.

Zhu Yufu was sentenced to seven years in prison for writing a poem (Photo Courtesy of Radio Free Asia).

After being formally arrested last April, Zhu Yufu was sentenced on Friday based on an indictment citing a poem shared online and calling for a ‘Jasmine’ rallies inspired by the 2011 protests in the Middle East.

The poem features the lines, “It’s time, Chinese people! The square belongs to everyone. The feet are yours it’s time to use your feet and take to the square to make a choice.”

During his trial, Zhu argued that he was exercising the freedoms granted to him by the Chinese Constitution.

Following the announcement of the sentence Zhu’s wife expressed her surprise at it’s severity by stating, “that is so cruel. I don’t know what else to say.”

Zhu’s son, who was also at the sentencing,  claimed that his father appeared weak and described him as walking very slowly and stated that he “…looked quite weak, and had to lean on two prison guards.”

The sentencing comes just days before China’s likely presidential successor, Xi Jinping, is scheduled to visit the United States.

This timing has caused international director Renee Xia to state that it “…seems a strange time for the U.S. to engage in diplomatic niceties or good will overtures to China’s likely future president.”

Xia further stated that there have been “…a whole batch of heavy sentences for crimes that would in the past 10 years get three, four, five years.”

China has recently attracted criticism for it’s decision to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for the resignation of the Syrian president amid increasing violence.

Besides writing poems Zhu has also been known for writing articles that drew attention to corruption and political prisoners.

Zhu has been twice before for his activism. In 1999 he served seven years in prison for founding a controversial political magazine and in 2007 he served another two years for confronting a police officer who was questioning his son.

Human Rights Watch official statistics estimate that there are between 250 and 500 protests in China each day.

 

For more information, please see:

AFP – China Jails Prominent Activist Ahead of Xi’s US Visit – 10 February 2012

BBC – China Dissident Zhu Yufu gets Seven Years for Poem – 10 February 2012

Los Angeles Times – The Chinese Poem that Helped Spur Seven-Year Prison Term – 10 February 2012

Radio Free Asia – Seven Years in Jail for a Poem – 10 February 2012

Another Tibetan Self-Immolation Amid Tensions in China

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Another Tibetan protester has set himself ablaze in protest of China’s rule over a Tibetan region in the Sichuan province of China.

Scheduled Tibetan protests and recent self-immolations have led to increased security in China (Photo Courtesy of Free Tibet Now).

The most recent occurrence adds to the wave of self-immolation being used to express resistance to the role the Chinese government is playing in the Tibetan region.

Since March 2009 twenty-one Tibetans, a majority of which were monks, have self-immolated causing the Chinese government to crackdown on monasteries.

Although the individual has not been identified, witnesses have reported that he appeared to be a monk and was shouting slogans before being carried away by the soldiers and the police. Two other monks were also detained and have yet to be identified.

Reports have indicated that three other self-immolations occurred just five days ago in the same province in which at least six Tibetan protesters were killed and sixty injured.

Security in China has been extremely tight in preparation of the planned prayers and protests of Tibetans across the world who intend to bring attention to and show respect for those who have sacrificed their lives for the Tibetan effort.

According to Lobsang Sangay, the leader of the exile government, Chinese security forces have been seen moving toward Tibet in the past few days in preparation for the Tibetan New Year on February 22 and the March anniversary of a failed uprising that occurred in 1959 and resulted in the exile of the Dalai Lama.

India-based monk, Kanyag Tsering, told Radio Free Asia that “[t]he Tibetans in Tibet are aware of the exile Tibetans’ global solidarity protest today, and as a result there was a massive security presence in Ngaba. During the daytime, almost no Tibetans were seen in the street.”

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Hei, has warned that “the Chinese government will resolutely crack down on any attempt to incite violence or to disrupt national unity and integrity.”

Following the protests links to telephone and internet communication have been cut in certain tumultuous regions and foreign journalists, such as CNN, have been shut out.

In addition, Tibet’s official newspaper has warned that leaders who do not maintain stability would be fired and as part of a “thankfulness education” campaign, Tibetans are required to hang the portraits of Chinese leaders in their homes.

Urges by the United States for China to allow independent observers into the restive areas have gone ignored and the authorities in China’s northern and western provinces have indicated that they will recruit 8,000 police officers to deploy in all villages for added security.


For more information, please see:

The Australian – Beijing Warning on Tibet Vigils – 9 February 2012

ABC News – Exile Prime Minister Decries Chinese Rule in Tibet – 8 February 2012

Radio Free Asia – New Self-Immolation Amid Tensions – 8 February 2012

Wall Street Journal – Tibetans Burning – 8 February 2012

CNN – CNN Crew Detained Amid Chinese Tibet Crackdown – 30 January 2012

100 Protesters Still Remain in Detention

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Over 100 Tibetan protestors remain in custody after fleeing from gunshots last week.

Tibetan protester who was injured during the shooting on January 23, 2012 (Photo Courtesy of Radio Free Asia).

 

The shooting sparked a series of protects against the Chinese government and to push for Tibetan rights. Rights groups believe that at least six people were killed and sixty injured during these protests.

Witnesses have reported that government authorities have been randomly searching homes for dissidents have taken to interrogating people on the streets. One resident stated, “…I dare not to look around in a casual manner, dare not move around freely…Armed personnel are everywhere, police are in every corner.”
Other residents have reported that security personnel have warned them not to discuss politics in during phone calls outside Tibet and have been warned that these personnel are mysteriously aware that they have called relatives living outside the country.
Following the shooting, Chinese officials cut off internet and phone connection to all areas within thirty miles where the shooting occurred.
The government has claimed that “[r]ioters continued to attack and tried to grab the guns from police…[officers] first shot in the air as a warning, but it was completely ignored, so we had no other choice but to open fire.”
Following the shooting, Chinese officials cut off internet and phone connection to all areas within thirty miles where the shooting occurred.

Despite official government reporting that only two Tibetans were killed after a mob attacked local police with knives and stones, witnesses have described the protests as peaceful.

The protest began when government authorities insisted that Tibetans celebrate the Lunar New Year despite the wishes of residents still grieving from earlier protest deaths and desiring to celebrate the Tibetan New Year on February 22.

According to Kalsang, a monk based in India, the police immediately began to use photographs to help identify the protestors and even “…schoolchildren who were identified in the photos have bee detained.”

The most recent conflict follows a string of at least sixteen self-immolations by monks and other Tibetans over the past year. Adding the tension felt in the region is also the recent crackdown on Tibetans and the release of a monk who was left paralyzed from the waist down as a result of the beatings he endured in prison.

China and Tibet have had a tumultuous relationship full of unrest and violence since China’s rule over Tibet began in 1950 with the sending of troops to assume control over the region.

Many Tibetan feel that the Chinese authorities mistreat them and that they are denied the ability to freely exercise their culture and religious preferences. One well-known example is the forced exile of the Dalai Lama and attempt to replace him with a communist-approved alternative.

 

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – China Cut Off Internet in Area of Tibetan Unrest – 3 February 2012

Fox News – Tensions Rise in Tibet as Chinese Security Forces Bring Fear to the Streets – 1 February 2012

Radio Free Asia – 100 Tibetan Protesters Held – 1 February 2012

The Guardian – Tibetan Unrest Spreads as Two Reported Killed by Chinese Troops – 25 January 2012

BBC – Q&A: China and the Tibetans – 15 August 2011

 

Decision Rejecting UN Selected Judge from Khmer Rouge Tribunals Stands

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia has announced that it will not overrule the rejection of Judge Kasper-Ansermet who was selected by the United Nations to preside over the Khmer Rouge Tribunal which is also known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).

Cambodian officials have rejected a judge selected by the UN to preside over the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (Photo Courtesy of Radio Free Asia).

According to an official spokesman, Phay Siphan, Cambodia’s Supreme Council of Magistracy is entrusted with final decision-making authority on whether the government would accept the United Nation’s choice of co-investigating judge at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

As such, the Cambodian government maintains that they are unable to override a decision made by the top judicial body despite statements by United Nations officials that the rejection is a breach of the ECCC agreement.

Special expert on U.N. assistance to the Khmer Rouge trial, David Scheffer, claims the Cambodia did not have authority under the agreement to prevent Kasper-Ansermet from taking the position.

“Our view is that this particular individual, judge Kasper-Ansermet, has clear authority to fulfill his duties in this country and we look forward to him doing so,” Scheffer stated.

According to Scheffer, Kasper-Ansermet is expected to begin work on the investigation of two individuals suspected to have played a role in the “year zero” revolution that claimed the lives of over two million.

Many believe that his intention to investigate the two individuals is what led to his rejection. Many believe that Cambodia’s government is attempting to prevent the investigation of further cases and the two individual’s in question have been particularly controversial.

Furthermore, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, who was himself a Khmer Rouge soldier, has threatened civil war if more indictments are issued.

A meeting between UN Secretary General’s Special Expert David Scheffer and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, which was intended to settle a dispute over the appointment of the co-investigating judge, proved fruitless.

According to a statement by Cambodia’s Council of Ministers, the two sides held differing views on the interpretation of tribunal agreement but “…they intend to continue their close discussions on the most critical issues, and both remain optimistic that the court can achieve its mandate.”

Many believe that the Cambodian government has continuously placed hurdles in front of the tribunal causing some to question the nation’s dedication to a successful tribunal.

Since its founding in 2003, the tribunal has spent $150 million dollars and has achieved only one conviction.

The man convicted was sentenced to thirty-five years in prison, which was later commuted to nineteen years, for his role in the death of 14,000 people at a Cambodian torture center.

The tribunal stems from the execution, torture, starvation, overwork and disease that occurred under the Maoist regime between 1975 and 1979 and resulted in over two million deaths.

 

For more information, please see:

AFP – UN Defends Judge in Khmer Rouge Trial Row – 25 January 2012

Reuters – U.N. Says Won’t Change Judge for Cambodia War Crimes Court – 25 January 2012

Voice of America – UN Insists on Appointment of Swiss Tribunal Judge – 25 January 2012

Radio  Free Asia – No Reversal of Tribunal Judge Decision – 24 January 2012

Woman Flees Forced Sterilization

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 BEIJING, China– A woman in China has narrowly avoided being forcibly sterilized after giving birth to her second child.

Chinese law prohibits families living in urban areas from having more than one child (Photo Courtesy of Radio Free Asia).

The attempt was carried out by family planning officials in the Chinese province of Fujian who held the woman down on an operating table.

The woman, Huang Yongchun, explains her experience by stating “they took me over there this morning, and about eight of them held me down on the operating table.”

Huang has already given birth to two children which exceeds the one child allowed under Chinese law. Huang reported that this attempt was preceded by an initial attempt made in 2010. While the first attempt was thwarted by Huang’s health problems, the second attempt was cancelled by a doctor after seeing Huang’s frantic reaction.

“The doctor didn’t want to do the operation because I was terrified…I was shuddering there on the operation table because I felt so helpless” reports Huang.

In response, Village chief Chen Renhe explained that, “they didn’t comply with family planning regulations…in our country the policy is that people who don’t comply are not forced, but we have to do ideological work with them.”

Forced sterilization and abortion have become common in rural areas of China where family planning officials attempt to avoid being fined for exceeding local birth quotas.

Rights lawyer Tang Jingling has reported that sterilizations, peer pressure and financial incentives are commonly used to convince women to comply with the one-child policy. For example, “if one person in a work unit has an extra child, then the whole organization…could lose out on economic benefit” stated Tang.

China’s one-child policy was instituted by the Communist government in the 1970’s to curb the growing population. Under this policy, couples living in urban areas are allowed only one child while couples living in rural areas are allowed two children if the first child is a female.

The one-child policy has sparked controversy not only internationally but nationally as well. One of China’s most well-known activists, rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, has endured over six years of harassment, persecution and physical abuse because of his investigative reported of forced sterilization and abortion in China.

Chen and his wife are currently under house arrest and have been forbidden from leaving their home for over a year. During this time they have suffered beatings and frequent raids on their home by Chinese authorities.

In December American actor Christian Bale was criticized by the Chinese government for engaging in an altercation with Chinese police who physically thwarted his attempts to visit Chen while he was in town to attend the opening ceremony of his latest filed “The Flowers of War”.

 

For more information, please see:

Radio Free Asia – Woman Flees Forced Sterilization – 12 January 2012

Lifenews – Biden to Head Obama China Policy but Ignored Forced Abortions – 3 January 2012

New York Daily News – China Says Christian Bale Should be Embarrassed – 21 December 2011

The Guardian – Chen Guangcheng: Amnesty Urgent Action – 12 November 2011

Clash in China Turns Deadly

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China –A confrontation between Chinese authorities and a group of Uighurs fleeing China resulted in at least seven deaths and the detention of children as young as seven years old.

A clash between Uighurs and Chinese authorities took place in Xinjiang where a large number of Uighurs live (Photo Courtesy of PBS).

According to the chief of one of the Mukula village hamlets, Memet Eziz Hapiz, two of those killed and at least two of those detained were from his hamlet.

Hapiz states that “[a]ll of them were firm in their beliefs. That is why they were unhappy and unsatisfied with the country’s religious policy.”

Minever Ehmet, Mukula village chief, told Radio Free Asia that two of the seven individuals killed were women and “their bodies are being held by the county Public Security Bureau.”

Minever Ehmet also stated that “the four captives are children aged seven to seventeen years of age. One child is an elementary school student in second grade. They are being interrogated by the county.”

When asked about the condition of the seven year old child, the village chief responded that he was “still alive” giving the impression that the child may have been seriously injured in the clash.

According to accounts by government authorities, the police attempted to block the “traitors”, who they accused of being terrorists, from crossing the border into an “enemy” country and opened fire when the Uighurs resisted arrest.

Although the police were civil, an argument eventually ensued and resulted in the stabbing of a police officer who grabbed the wife of one of the individuals.

Despite the official account, doubts have been raised about the legitimacy of official statements regarding events in Xinjiang.

For example, in 2008 officials claimed that two Uighur men were responsible for killing sixteen paramilitary officers by using machetes, explosives and trucks. Witnesses, however, claimed that it appeared that government actors had been the aggressors.

The Uighurs, which are the Turkish speaking and Muslim population in China, have often been accused of being the source of terrorism due to their resentment of Chinese rule and the control the government exercises over their religion and culture.


For more information, please see:

China Daily – Seven Kidnappers Killed, Police Officer Dies – 30 December 2011

New York Times – Reports Describe Deadly Clash in Restive China Region – 30 December 2011

Radio Free Asia – Women Killed, Children Captured in Standoff – 30 December 2011

AIDS Activists Face Pressure From Chinese Authorities

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – In anticipation of world AIDS day, prominent AIDS activists Hu Jia and Tian Xi have faced pressure from authorities for attempting to bring attention to difficulties faced by individuals living with AIDS in China.

AIDS activist Hu Jia in June 2011 (Photo Courtesy of Radio Free Asia).

Hu Jia was released from prison in June after serving a three-year jail sentence for subversion. As a condition of his release, Hu must undergo one year of constant surveillance and “…is tracked and videotaped by Domestic Security police.”

Despite his own recent release from prison, Hu has expressed his fear for fellow activist Tian Xi, who was recently released after serving a one year sentence for staging a protest on world AIDS day in 2009, by stating that “[i]f [Tian] is put back in jail by the authorities, I don’t think he will come out alive.”

Hu claims that Tian has been emotionally unstable since his release leading Hu to advocate for better treatment for AIDS patients on his behalf to prevent his re-imprisonment.

Despite his attempts to engage authorities, Hu has been unable to find a willing audience in the health ministry who has consistently ignored his requests and has threatened him with detention if he publicly protests or gives an interview.

Hu stated that in the past ten years he has approached the health ministry to discuss potential solutions to the problems facing AIDS patients at least sixty times but has received no response.

Tian Xi’s plight against AIDS and the government began when he pursued compensation after being infected with HIV through a tainted blood transfusion following a head injury he received at the age of nine.

In compensation for his contraction of HIV Tian was given 30,000 yuan which is the equivalent of $4,404 American dollars.

Rights activists allege that people with AIDS are often refused treatment and AIDS infected children are denied access to schools. In addition, the medication that is provided by local governments is substandard and becomes ineffective after three to five years.

Although health authorities maintain that sex and drug use are the main causes of HIV contraction, gynecologist Gao Yaojie, who was forced into exile, urges that tainted blood transfusions continue to infect blood recipients in the Hunan province.

An expert panel consisting of members from China’s Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS estimate that China will have 154,000 AIDS patients by the end of the year. The total infected population in china is estimated at approximately 780,000 people.

 

For more information, please see:

Xinhua Net – China’s HIV/AIDS-Infected Population Estimated at 780,000 – 29 November 2011

Epoch Times – Activist Hu Jia Assists AIDS Patient’s Appeal – 28 November 2011

Radio Free Asia – AIDS Activists Under Pressure – 28 November 2011

Falun Gong Practitioners Jailed for Broadcasting Human Rights Abuses Into China

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

HANOI, Vietnam – Two Vietnamese men have been imprisoned for “the illegal transmission of information on a telecommunications network” into China amidst suspicion that the prosecutions were an attempt by Vietnamese authorities to please the Chinese government.

Vu Duc Trung (left) and Le Vanh Thanh (right) attend their trial on November 10, 2011 (Photo Courtesy of Radio Free Asia).

Le Van Thanh and his brother-in-law Vu Duc Trung were sentenced to serve two and three years respectively following a half day long trial.

Both of the men arrested were followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement which is inspired by Buddhism and focuses on meditation. The movement was banned in China in 1999 after the group organized a peaceful protest in Tiananmen Square causing the Chinese government to designate the group as a “threat to social and political stability.”

The two men were initially detained in June 2010 for broadcasting the Sound of Hope news program into China in which they discussed human rights abuses, corruption and the persecution of Falun Gong followers. The transmissions were made from a farm outside of Hanoi from April 2009 until their detention.

Although outlawed in China, the Falun Gong practice is not prohibited in Vietnam and, according to Epring Zhang of the Falun Dafa Information Center, “…the Vietnamese constitution should protect people’s freedom of speech and expression.”

In addition, the transmissions of uncensored news to China did “…absolutely nothing to harm Vietnamese society or break Vietnamese law” according to Falun Dafa and the court failed to produce a law banning broadcasting into China when pressed by Vu and Le’s attorney.

Furthermore, the Chinese government has allegedly sent correspondences to Vietnam requesting not only that the government prevent the transmission of radio content from Vietnam into China but also that they restrict and harass Falun Gong practitioners. Following the requests, China sent a letter praising Vietnam for their assistance in controlling Falun Gong.

The correspondences between the Chinese and Vietnamese government in conjunction with the legality of the activities of Vu and Le have led many to speculate that the conviction of the two broadcasters was an effort by the Vietnamese government to cater to China’s influence.

For example, Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch argued that “Vietnam should not violate human rights and punish its own citizens merely because their activism displeases China.”

In addition, Reporters Without Borders released a statement that the “…verdict shows the authorities were conveying the anger of their Chinese counterparts, who were the targets of criticism expressed in the radio programs.”

Since being outlawed, Falun Gong practitioners in China have been detained, held in psychiatric facilities and forced into re-education through labor programs.

Just days before the trial of Vu Duc Trung and Le Van Thanh thirty Falun Gong demonstrators were beaten and detained for protesting the trial of the two men outside of the Chinese embassy in Hanoi.

 

For more information, please see:

NTDTV – Vietnam Complicit With Chinese Regime’s Persecution of Falun Gong: Rights Groups – 15 November 2011

Amnesty International – China: Local Residents Petition for Falun Gong Releases – 14 November 2011

IEWY – Viet Nam: Falun Gong Practitioners Detained Over Meditation Protest – 14 November 2011

Radio Free Asia – Under Fire Over Falun Gong Jailing – 11 November 2011

AFP – Vietnam Falungong Jailed Over China Broadcasts – 10 November 2011

Chinese Elections Marred by Harrassment and Controversy

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China –Despite claims by the Chinese government that it is introducing democracy to its people, Chinese elections have faced criticism for harassing potential candidates and engaging in irregularities during the voting process.

Chinese elections have been marred by harassment of independent candidates (Photo Courtesy of Radio Free Asia).

Han Ying, a former potential candidate and land activist, has received threats and has been prevented from leaving her home. In addition, she was detained in a basement for ten hours after printing fliers to advertise her campaign and encouraging people to hear her speak.

The decision to end her campaign, however, came when she was nearly abducted after arriving home to find a guard at the gate of her neighborhood. In fear, she drove away but was followed by a gray car. After arriving at a friends apartment complex she was grabbed by officials, who attempted to drag her into the car, as she attempted to run up the stairs and into her friends apartment. After she screamed the men let go and, before leaving, told her that they were from the election commission and had “just wanted to talk” to her.

Another individual was forcibly removed by the police and taken out of town after he attempted to register as an independent candidate. On election day, he was accompanied by the local police and the state security police to his polling station.

In a similar case, Li Sihua, was accused of “sabotaging the election” when he refused to heed requests to not run for office. He was taken out of town by authorities during three important stages of the elections.

One of the few independent candidates to win the election was sixty-year-old Guo Huojia, a land activist, who received 7,000 out of the possible 9,000 votes.  The day after his victory, however, he was placed under house arrest where he has remained since September 29.

In addition to harassing prospective candidates, the Chinese government has misinformed voters about proper procedure causing many ballots to be deemed “spoiled.”

In one case, a voter chose one preselected candidate and then filled in the box that allowed voter’s to vote for a person not on the ballot. When she turned her ballot in, she was told that it would be discarded because she did not select two approved candidates as required.

Other voters have reported that employees watched them make their selections and did not offer private accommodations unless explicitly asked.

In another irregularity, a potential candidate was eliminated from the ballot during a selection meeting that the police prevented her from attending.

The elections have also been clouded by China’s central propaganda department’s direct order to state media that “news reports regarding independent candidates or election workshops are strictly prohibited.”

The central government also ordered those in charge of China’s most used websites to attend workshops where they were told to tighten censorship. Following the workshops, many of the independent candidate’s websites were removed.

Chinese officials have also arbitrarily removed candidate names from the ballot. Of the almost 7,000 candidates listed on the ballot, none of the thirteen known independent candidates were included.

Land confiscation is considered the hot button issue in these elections and many of the independent candidates have been involved in land rights activism. This background has been a cause of concern for Chinese authorities who have faced criticism in recent months for taking land from peasant farmers without adequately compensating them. As recently as November 7, three brothers in China self-immolated themselves in protest of land grabs drawing increased attention to the issue in China.

 

For more information, please see:

Radio Free Asia – Voters ‘misled’ at Polls – 8 November 2011

Voice of America – Democracy Candidates Barred from Beijing Elections – 8 November 2011

Radio Free Asia – Clampdown on Eve of Poll – 7 November 2011

Radio Free Asia – Three Peasants Self-Immolate – 7 November 2011

USA Today – ‘Chinese-Style Democracy’ Ensures Communists Prevail – 7 November 2011

Los Angeles Times – China’s Independents Find it Hard to Get on Ballot -5 November 2011

 

Political Prisoners Expected to Released Amidst Allegations of Deplorable Conditions

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

 NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar– Rights groups are calling on authorities in Myanmar to end the poor conditions of fifteen political prisoners who are being held in dog cells and deprived of water.

Myanmar is expected to release political prisoners next week despite allegations of cruelty (Photo Courtesy of Radio Free Asia).

On October 26 the prisoners began a hunger strike to protest the denial of the same sentence reductions that are offered to criminal prisoners. In Myanmar, criminal prisoners automatically have their sentences reduced by one-third in return for good behavior. Political prisoners, however, are given no opportunity to reduce their sentences.

On October 27, authorities began to retaliate against the prisoners by depriving them of water. This deprivation continued through at least November 2.

Amnesty International has stated that “depriving prisoners of drinking water as a punishment for participating in a hunger strike that could result in the prison authorities being responsible for the rapid death of the hunger strikers due to dehydration.” The statement continued to state that prisoner induced death by dehydration would be a “…violation of the right to life according to international law…”

On November 1 two of the prisoners were sent to the hospital while eight other prisoners were moved into cells designed to contain prison guard dogs. The dog cells measure approximately ten feet in length and seven feet in width. They are sound proof, do not have windows and are generally unsanitary and lacking in a bed or mat on the floor.

Reportedly, the prisoners have also been denied food, letters from their families, medication and visits.

The joint-secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma, Bo Kyi, believes that approximately 1,600 political prisoners remain imprisoned in Myanmar. He also stated that “[t]he Burmese prison authorities usually crack down brutally on striking prisoners, so we are worried for their lives.”

There have been reports that the Myanmar government is planning to release approximately 600 political prisoners next week as part of a new amnesty program by President Thein Sein’s new civilian government. The new releases would add to the several hundred political prisoners released less than a month ago.

According to the Myanmar government, there are only 600 political prisoners remaining in custody meaning that the expected release next week will free the remaining political prisoners. Amnesty International, however, insists that there are still approximately 2,000 political prisoners in jail.

Although the list of those to be released has been submitted to the National Defense and Security Council by the Myanmar president, it is unknown whether the hunger strikers are among those slated to be released.

For more information, please see:

The Irrawaddy – Families Fear for Hunger Strikers – 5 November 2011

Amnesty International – Myanmar Political Prisoners Held in Dog Cells and Denied Water – 4 November 2011

Radio Free Asia – New Political Prisoner Release ‘Likely’ – 4 November 2011

Reuters – Myanmar Prisoners on Hunger Strike Denied Drinking Water – 4 November 2011