Category Archives: Chinese Human Rights Activists

RFA: New Zealand Shooting Suspect Praised China For ‘Lacking Diversity’

The white supremacist suspect in last Friday’s massacre of worshippers at two New Zealand mosques praised the policies of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which has incarcerated more than a million ethnic minority Muslims in camps in Xinjiang.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that her government will introduce new gun laws after Australian Brenton Tarrant was arrested on suspicion of killing 50 people in mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch.

She had earlier received an email from the suspect, warning of the impending attack and containing a confused outpouring of racist ideology, which included support for China’s lack of “diversity.”

“The nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China,” the document said.


RFA: UN Calls For Probe Into Activist’s Death As Beijing Rejects Rights Report

Experts at the United Nations have called on Beijing to launch an independent investigation into the death of a Chinese human rights activist in a police detention center five years ago, as Beijing faces growing pressure over international criticism of its rights record.

“Cao Shunli’s case is emblematic of the struggle that many human rights defenders in China face,” the experts said in a statement on Thursday.

They said Cao, who was detained as she set out for Switzerland to take part in a U.N. Human Rights Council review in September 2013, had “paid the ultimate price” for her activism.

Cao died aged 52 on March 14, 2014, after being denied medical treatment for months while in detention, according to her brother and fellow activists who blasted the government for using medical care as leverage to silence critics.

Her lawyers had made repeated requests for her release to allow her to receive medical treatment, but no action was taken until she was seriously ill. She suffered from tuberculosis in both her lungs, cirrhosis of the liver, and uterine fibroids.

“Today, on the fifth anniversary of her death, we renew our call for an independent, impartial, and comprehensive investigation into her death, with a view to bringing those responsible to justice,” the U.N. experts said.

Rights groups and the U.S. State Department have pointed to the growing use by the ruling Chinese Communist Party of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and medical neglect of detainees in custody.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that China “is in a league of its own” when it comes to human rights abuses, citing mass detentions of an estimated 1 million Muslims and the repression of Christians, Tibetans, and other religious minorities.


RFA: Xinjiang ‘Re-education Camps’ Target Cultural, Religious Identity of Uyghurs: US Envoy

Political “re-education camps” in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) were “created to wipe out the cultural and religious identity” of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities as part of Beijing’s wider “war with faith,” U.S. Ambassador for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said Friday.

Delivering remarks on religious freedom at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong, Brownback noted that authorities in the XUAR have detained more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslims accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas in the camp network since April 2017, often for common religious practices, including praying and attending services.

Though Beijing initially denied the existence of re-education camps, Shohrat Zakir, chairman of the XUAR, told China’s official Xinhua news agency in October 2018 that the facilities are an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training for Uyghurs.

Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media organizations, however, has shown that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.

On Friday, Brownback suggested that it is time to “call these camps what they are—they’re internment camps created to wipe out the cultural and religious identity of minority communities.”

“Authorities force innocent people into these camps often based primarily on their religious beliefs and ethnic identity … They are then held for an indeterminate amount of time and subjected to physical and psychological torture, intense political indoctrination, and forced labor.”


RFA: Taiwan ‘Would Welcome’ Visit From The Dalai Lama: Ruling Party Chief

The democratic island of Taiwan would welcome a visit from exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, the leader of its ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has said.

DPP secretary-general Lo Wen-jia told Tibetan and human rights activists in Taipei on Thursday that the Dalai Lama should be free to visit anywhere he wants, including Tibet.

“We would welcome the Dalai Lama if he is able to visit Taiwan,” Lo said. “Actually, he should have the right to visit anywhere he chooses, including his homeland [of Tibet].”

Lo’s remarks came ahead of a planned march in Taipei to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese Communist Party rule.

He also used the example of China’s suppression of Tibetan religion and culture over the past 60 years to warn against heeding Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Jan. 2 call for “peaceful unification” with Taiwan.

After the Chinese Communist regime signed 17 agreements with Tibet, the agreements were torn up and their army entered Tibet, he said.

During the occupation, 1.2 million Tibetans died of unnatural causes, more than 6,000 Buddhist holy sites were destroyed, and countless Tibetans were exiled overseas, he said.

“I believe that there should be no grey areas between democracy and dictatorship, human rights and totalitarianism,” Lo told reporters.

“I hope that [any of our politicians] will be able to make it clear which side they are on.”

He said there should be “no illusions” when dealing with Beijing.

“We should have no illusions about any dictatorship,” Lo said. “Peace agreements will never bring peace; only massacres and persecution.”

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen rejected Xi’s proposal, saying the island’s government wouldn’t negotiate unless China itself became democratic, and that Taiwan had no intention of giving up its sovereignty as the Republic of China, which dates back to Sun Yat-sen’s 1911 revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Lo also hit out at the mass incarceration of Uyghurs and other minority ethnic Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

“How is this different from the Nazis in the Second World War?,” Lo said.


RFA: China’s Rights Activists Face Torture, Detention, ‘Disappearance’: Report

China’s human rights activists continue to speak out on behalf of victims of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s abuses of power, despite the threat of arbitrary detention, torture, and forced ‘disappearance,’ an overseas rights group said on Thursday.

“2018 was another year of harsh reprisals against human rights defenders by Chinese authorities for their peaceful exercise of and advocacy for human rights,” the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, which compiles reports from groups inside China, said in its annual report.

“Types of retaliation included the use of torture, enforced disappearance, and arbitrary detention,” the report said, adding that the government had also threatened activists who tried to cooperate with United Nations human rights experts.

Anyone who tried to speak out for marginalized and persecuted communities, report violations, or complain about the perpetrators of rights violations “bore the brunt of government retaliation” last year, the report said.

The group called on China to release all ethnic Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims subjected to mass arbitrary detention in the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

“End arbitrary detention of ethnic Uyghurs and Turkic Muslims in the [XUAR], and shut down internment camps and other indoctrination programs established under ‘counter-terrorism’ and ‘counter-extremism’ policies,” the report said in its recommendations section.

It also called for the release of all detained and imprisoned rights activists and human rights lawyers, and for those who mistreated or tortured them to be held criminally responsible.

“CHRD urges the Chinese government … to provide detainees and prisoners prompt access to proper medical treatment … and end the practice of enforced disappearance,” it said.

The report also said that wholesale violations of basic human rights had reached unprecedented levels under the administration of President Xi Jinping.


RFA: Independent Students Slam China-Backed Intimidation on Overseas Campuses

An independent group of overseas Chinese students has hit out at Communist Party-backed student groups on overseas campuses, following reports that they threatened and harassed Uyghur and Tibetan activists campaigning against Beijing’s human rights violations.

The Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars in USA (IFCSS) said it was “deeply concerned” about reports that have emerged from universities in the United States, Canada, France, Ireland, and the Netherlands of the coordinated targeting of activists campaigning against China’s treatment of ethnic minorities.

It said that “apparently organized pro-CCP (Chinese Communist Party) students harassed, abused and threatened Uyghur and Tibetan students, concerned scholars and activists,” in incidents at McMaster University and the University of Toronto in Canada, and Duke University in the U.S.

Similar reports have also emerged from students at the University of Strasbourg in France and University College Dublin and from activists in the Netherlands, it said.

“We strongly denounce these Chinese students’ efforts to stymie free speech and suppress the truth about the ongoing genocidal crimes committed by China’s murderous regime,” it said.

The group called on authorities in the countries concerned “to protect Uyghur and Tibetan students and scholars from intimidation on campus and guard their citizens of Uyghur and Tibetan backgrounds against foreign threats at home.”

It called on police to investigate possible crimes that may have been committed, and to investigate the role of the Chinese government in the incidents.

Threat to son

Uyghur activist Rukiye Turdush, whose lecture on the mass incarceration of Uyghurs and other ethnic minority Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) was disrupted by Chinese students, said in a video statement that German broadcaster Deutsche Welle had reported that the students had discussed locating her son.


RFA: Uyghurs in Exile Launch Campaign Calling on China to Release Video of Missing Family Members

More than a dozen ethnic Uyghurs living in exile have called on China to release video of family members held in political “re-education camps” in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) after Chinese state media published what it said was a proof of life video of a Uyghur musician who was thought to have died in prison.

Over the weekend, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry issued a rare statement of criticism against China by a majority Muslim nation, demanding that authorities close the camp network, where more than 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas are believed to have been held in the XUAR since April 2017.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said the statement had been prompted, in part, by reports of the death in prison of prominent Uyghur musician Abdurehim Heyit, who had served two years of an eight-year jail sentence “for one of his songs.”

On Sunday, Chinese state media published a video online that purportedly shows Heyit alive, and in which the musician claims he is “in the process of being investigated for allegedly violating the national laws.”

The subject of the video goes on to say that he is “in good health and have never been abused,” although experts have said his body language and choice of words suggest he is being held under duress.

By Tuesday, the Uyghur exile community had launched a social media campaign under the hashtag #MeTooUyghur, calling on Chinese authorities to release video of their relatives who are missing within the XUAR and believed detained in the vast camp network.

“China, please immediately release a video of my sister Dr. Gulshan Abbas, who you abducted five months ago,” U.S.-based Uyghur activist Rushan Abbas said in a video she posted to Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday.

“I need to know if she is alive or not. Please release a video just like you did with Abdurehim Heyit.”

Adile Mijit, the Turkey-based daughter of prominent Uyghur comedian Adil Mijit, also posted a message on Twitter under the same hashtag, demanding information about her father, who is believed held in a re-education camp in the XUAR.

“Show me that my father is alive and well! Release my father immediately!” she wrote.


RFA: Ethnic Kazakh Faces Immediate Repatriation to China After Fleeing Country

Authorities in Uzbekistan are holding an ethnic Kazakh man with Chinese nationality after he was denied permission to enter Kazakhstan, and his repatriation to China appears imminent, RFA has learned.

Businessman Halimbek Shahman initially fled China, which has incarcerated at least one million ethnic minority Muslim Uyghurs and Kazakhs in “re-education” camps, on Jan. 4, arriving in Thailand, where he took a flight to Almaty in Kazakhstan, sources in Kazakhstan said.

Shahman then boarded a flight to Uzbekistan’s Tashkent airport after being denied entry by the Kazakh authorities, a Kazakhstan-based rights group said.

He is currently stuck in a restricted area of the airport, according to a statement from the human rights group Atajurt.

An employee who spoke to RFA from the group said Chinese foreign ministry officials had demanded Shahman be handed over to them.

Repeated attempts to contact Shahman met with an unreliable connection that seemed to be affected by interference.

“I was born in Emin county in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region [XUAR], to a farming family,” he said in a brief video message sent in lieu of a phone call. “I wanted to go to Kazakhstan, because China’s human rights record was making life intolerable.”

“I would have my ID checked every 50 to 100 meters [164 to 328 feet] when I was in Xinjiang,” he said. “This made me extremely anxious, and I couldn’t stand it anymore.”

A friend of Shahman’s told RFA that he remains in danger of repatriation to China, where he is faced with the threat of a “re-education” camp.

“This guy is in Tashkent airport right now, and the Chinese embassy is getting ready to take him away,” the friend said. “The Tashkent police are planning to detain him.”


RFA: China Secretly Transferring Uyghur Detainees From Xinjiang to Shaanxi, Gansu Province Prisons

Ethnic Uyghurs held in political “re-education camps” in northwest China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region (XUAR) are being sent to prisons in Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, officials have confirmed, pointing to an expansion of a secretive system transferring detainees out of the region.

In October last year, RFA’s Uyghur Service reported that authorities in the XUAR had begun covertly sending detainees to prisons in Heilongjiang province and other parts of China to address an “overflow” in overcrowded camps, where up to 1.1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been held since April 2017.

The report, which was confirmed by officials in both the XUAR and Heilongjiang, came in the same month that XUAR chairman Shohrat Zakir confirmed to China’s official Xinhua news agency the existence of the camps, calling them an effective tool to protect the country from terrorism and provide vocational training for Uyghurs.

As global condemnation over the camp network has grown, including calls for international observers to be allowed into the XUAR to investigate the situation there, reports suggest that authorities may be transferring detainees to other parts of China as part of a bid to obfuscate the scale of detentions of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the region.

On Thursday, RFA spoke to officials in both Shaanxi province and neighboring Gansu province, who confirmed that Uyghur and other Muslim detainees from the XUAR had been sent to prisons there, although they were unable to provide specific numbers or dates for when they had been transferred.

An officer who answered the phone at the Shaanxi provincial Public Security Bureau (PSB) told RFA, “I do not have any information on how many Uyghurs are being transferred here,” before referring further questions to the XUAR PSB and Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, or bingtuan, prison facilities for “more accurate numbers.”

An official at the Cuijiagou prison, in Shaanxi’s Tongchuan city, told RFA to obtain permission from relevant provincial bureaus and send a reporter to the facility with proper documentation before he would answer any questions.

But when asked whether there are Uyghur detainees at Cuijiagou prison, an official with the Shaanxi Provincial Prison Administration confirmed, “that is correct.”

RFA also contacted an official at the Gansu Provincial Prison Administration, who confirmed that detainees from the XUAR are being held in a prison in Baiyin city.

“The number of those transferred from [the XUAR] is huge,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“They are not only being held at Baiyin prison, they are in most of the jails throughout Gansu,” he added.

While the official was unable to provide information about when transfers from the XUAR to Gansu began, he did say that the detainees were being held under “special circumstances.”

“They are not here because they committed certain crimes, but for a special reason, and they are under particularly heavy security,” the official said.

“For example, they are not permitted to meet with their relatives or acquaintances,” he said, before referring further questions to his superiors.

Bitter Winter report

The confirmation from officials in Shaanxi and Gansu followed a report over the weekend by Bitter Winter, a website launched by the Italian research center CESNUR that focuses on religious in China, which cited “informed sources” as confirming for the first time that detainees from the XUAR are being sent to prison facilities in the two provinces.

RFA: China Slammed in Global Freedom, Democracy Report

China’s incarceration of more than one million Turkic Muslims in camps, and indefinite rule by its increasingly authoritarian president are among a number of global threats to democracy, according to a new report from the independent watchdog Freedom House.

China is increasingly seeking to export its model of government to other countries, filling a gap once occupied by the United States in global affairs, the “Freedom in the World 2019” report warned.

“Democracies face threats at home and abroad,” the report found. “A crisis of confidence in open societies is sapping faith in democracy as a system.”

“Domestic attacks on key institutions — the judiciary, the media, and electoral mechanisms — are undermining the foundations of democracy,” it said.

“At the same time, a global assault on the norms of democracy, led by an increasingly assertive China, challenges their spread around the world,” the report said, awarding China just 11 points out of a possible 100 in its freedom score.

Mass detentions in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) have drawn significant attention from the international community, and particularly from the U.S., where lawmakers have called for access to the camps and proposed sanctions against officials and entities in China deemed responsible for abusing the rights of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.