Human Rights

The Verge
Date: Dec 10, 2018
By: Colin Lecher@colinlecher  

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Dozens of human rights groups signed on to an open letter today protesting Google’s plans for China, as CEO Sundar Pichai is scheduled to testify before a House committee tomorrow.

“We are writing to ask you to ensure that Google drops Project Dragonfly and any plans to launch a censored search app in China, and to re-affirm the company’s 2010 commitment that it won’t provide censored search services in the country,” the letter, which is addressed to Pichai, begins.

Google has faced intense scrutiny since it was revealed that the company planned to launch a search product that would comply with the Chinese government’s surveillance and censorship demands. The company has continued to claim that the project was only exploratory.

More than 60 NGOs signed the document, as well as individuals including Edward Snowden, saying they were “disappointed” by a previous letter from Google. By implementing the project, codenamed Dragonfly, the groups and individuals write, they “fear that the company may knowingly compromise its commitments to human rights and freedom of expression, in exchange for access to the Chinese search market.”

“Actively aiding China’s censorship and surveillance regime is likely to set a terrible precedent for human rights and press freedoms worldwide,” the letter continues.    [FULL  STORY]

ABC News
Date: December 9, 2018
By: Robert Burton-Bradley

The number of Chinese nationals applying for refugee asylum in Australia has risen by 311 per cent in just one year, according to figures from the Department of Home Affairs.

Key points:

  • People claiming to be Christian, LGBTI and love children are among those seeking asylum
  • All arrived by plane using temporary visas, mainly for study and tourism
  • Experts warn bogus asylum claims are a way to overstay visas

Onshore protection visa applications from those who arrived by plane from the People’s Republic of China jumped from 2,269 in 2016-17 to 9,315 in 2017-18, the data reveals.

Despite the surge in claims, Chinese nationals had one of the lowest success rates for protection visas, with the Department only recognising 10 per cent of those claims as being genuine.

The total number of onshore asylum claims for all nationalities soared 225 per cent from 8,587 in 2014-15 to 27,931 in 2017-18 with Chinese nationals making up a third of all claims over that period.

PHOTO: Claims were dominated by Chinese nationals. Source: Department of Home Affairs. (Illustration: ABC News/Jarrod Fankhauser)

Refugee Council of Australia director of policy Joyce Chia told the ABC the number of student visas had increased with the booming international student industry in Australia, now worth an estimated $32 billion.

“I think the fact that Chinese people have increasing access [to Australia] is a large factor,” she said.

“We are seeing a massive increase in people coming by plane generally, and obviously with the massive increase in international students from places like China, it’s now much easier for those students to get to Australia.”    [FULL  STORY]

Date: November 30, 2018
By Sherisse Pham, CNN Business

Hong Kong (CNN Business)Chinese internet companies have started keeping detailed records of their users’ personal information and online activity.

The new rules from China’s internet regulator went into effect Friday, just the latest sign of the increasingly restrictive environment for tech companies like Tencent (TCEHY) and Alibaba (BABA).

The new requirements apply to any company that provides online services which can influence public opinion or “mobilize the public to engage in specific activities,” according to a notice posted on the Cyber Administration of China’s website earlier this month.

Why China’s tech giants are cozying up to the Communist Party
Companies will now have to start logging the activities of users posting in blogs, microblogs, chat rooms, short video platforms and webcasts.

Citing the need to safeguard national security and social order, the Chinese regulator said companies must be able to verify users’ identities and keep records of key information such as call logs, chat logs, times of activity and network addresses.

Officals will carry out inspections of companies’ operations to ensure compliance. But the Cyber Administration didn’t make clear under what circumstances the companies might be required to hand over logs to authorities.    [FULL  STORY]

Communists in Ningxia have signed an agreement with those in Xinjiang to ‘learn from the latter’s experiences’ to ‘re-educate’ local Muslim communities

Taiwan News
Date: 2018/11/30
By: Duncan Deaeth, Taiwan News, Staff Writer

One of the few photos taken inside a Xinjiang internment camp in Hotan, April 2017 (Image from Twitter user @uyghur_nur)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – According to recent reports out of China, Xinjiang-style internment camps, which are designed to wipe out local ethnic customs and religious beliefs among the local minority Uyghur population may soon be implemented in other regions of China.

Ningxia Province, home of the the Hui people, a minority Muslim population, may be preparing to replicate a Xinjiang inspired model for the internment and re-conditioning of Muslims in the region.

The Chinese state-backed propaganda blog, Global Times, on Nov. 30 published the following statement.

“Northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region signed an anti-terror cooperation agreement with Xinjiang to learn from the latter’s experiences in promoting social stability.”
International observers and human rights organizations are now raising alarms that the crisis situation in Xinjiang may be expanded to include Muslim communities in Ningxia and possibly other regions, reports Supchina.

Details regarding the internment camps in Xinjiang, which Chinese officials repeatedly call “re-education” and “job training” centers, have become more clear over the past year, with human rights organizations, the United Nations, and foreign nations expressing serious concern over the practices of the Chinese Communist Party.

Date: November 24, 2018
By: Michael Bociurkiw

(CNN)When the last British governor of Hong Kong sailed out of Victoria Harbor on July 1,1997, many expected the Chinese government to honor pledges to maintain the colony’s basic freedoms, enshrined in the so-called Basic Law — in effect, the territory’s mini-Constitution.

After all, the thinking went, Beijing would have nothing to gain by tinkering with the rule of law in one of the world’s premier trade and business hubs. It wouldn’t dare pluck the feathers of what had traditionally been known as the goose that lays China’s golden eggs — a freewheeling, capitalist enclave that served as China’s gateway to the world for trade and investment. And freedom of the press would be tolerated on the assumption that the Chinese understood the need for business to have unfettered access to information.

Moreover, the British had installed a world class legal and physical infrastructure that was expected to endure far into the future. That included such institutional safeguards as the powerful and feared Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), designed to keep the noses of the civil service squeaky clean.

But almost half way into the mandate of the “one country, two systems” experiment, Beijing appears to be accelerating Hong Kong’s absorption into China at a pace no British foreign office official might have expected in the heady run-up to the handover.

That includes a hard crackdown on dissent, especially on anyone who advocates independence of Hong Kong from the mainland. The situation was brought into focus Monday when three of the territory’s most high-profile pro-democracy protesters appeared in court on charges of fomenting unrest during 2014 street protests that brought the central business district to a standstill for almost three months. (They have pleaded not guilty but face up to seven years in prison if convicted.)

China’s media enables tyranny and corruption
Local pro-democracy protesters are not the only ones to feel the clampdown on freedom of expression. Last month, the Asia editor of the Financial Times, Victor Mallet, was declared persona non grata in Hong Kong after chairing a talk at the Foreign Correspondents Club ((FCC) with Hong Kong independence advocate Andy Chan. A few weeks ago, Mallet, who was also the correspondents club’s vice president, was denied entryinto Hong Kong as a tourist — a move of such severity it would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

While Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed chief executive, Carrie Lam, has refused to comment on the reasoning behind the expulsion, it is widely seen to be a signal to others of a red line that should not be crossed. It may also foreshadow more troubles ahead for the FCC: in 2023, its lease comes up for renewal by the Hong Kong government. And, with a three-month cancellation clause, which allows the government to terminate the lease even sooner, more missteps could shutter an institution that has traditionally served as not only a venue for free speech, but as a haven, exhibit space and workplace for foreign journalists and diplomats.

Even before the exclusion of Mallet, there has been creeping self-censorship in Hong Kong. The territory’s major English language newspaper, the South China Morning Post, owned since 2015 by Alibaba’s Jack Ma, tends to give Chinese authorities velvet glove treatment. The Chinese-language media in the territory has long-since fallen into line and stays clear of criticism of Beijing.    [FULL  STORY]

Date: November 24, 2018
By: Chase Purdy

You’re being watched.

China is taking a big step toward expanding a controversial program that judges and punishes individuals based on their social behavior.

The government describes (in Chinese) the program, which has been piloted in Hangzhou, a 9.5 million-person city in eastern China, as a “personal integrity” project. Authorities said it will be rolled out next in Beijing, allowing the Chinese Communist Party to more closely monitor the 22 million citizens in the capital based on their actions and reputations, according to Bloomberg.

The way it works is relatively straightforward. People who follow the government’s rules and exhibit pro-social behaviors, such as donating blood, will earn a good social credit and be rewarded with so-called “green channel” benefits, such as easier access to job applications and gyms. Those who violate laws—including traffic laws—will “pay a heavy price,” according to the government announcement. That can include being blocked from things that include ordering plane and train tickets.

The program will work by pooling information from several different government agencies and transit authorities, using tracking technology linked to citizens who are increasingly part of a technological network comprised of cell phones and social apps such as WeChat and Alipay. It will also incorporate the use of facial recognition technology via the government’s 200 million cameras set up to monitor jaywalkers and activity in open spaces.  [FULL  STORY]

US citizens Victor and Cynthia Liu say they have been barred from leaving China since June
Image copyrightFRIENDS OF LIU FAMILYImage caption
BBC News
Date: Nov 26, 2018

Image copyrightFRIENDS OF LIU FAMILYImage caption

Chinese officials have defended their decision to bar three US citizens from leaving the country, saying they are suspected of “economic crimes”.

Victor and Cynthia Liu, children of a fugitive businessman, and their mother, Sandra Han, have been detained since June, the New York Times reported.

The US Department of State confirmed to the BBC that they are in “close contact” with the adult Liu children.

Their father, Liu Changming, is wanted in a $1.4bn (£1bn) fraud case in China.

“As we understand it from the relevant authorities, these people you have mentioned all have legal and valid identity documents as Chinese citizens,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters at a news conference, according to the Agence France-Presse.

“They are suspected of having committed economic crimes and have been restricted from leaving China by Chinese police.”

The risks of dual citizenship

Analysis by Zhaoyin Feng, US Correspondent, BBC Chinese Service

Beijing has shown that it doesn’t shy away from prosecuting dual citizenship holders and foreign passport holders with Chinese roots.

Lee Bo, a Hong Kong bookseller who also holds a British passport, was “first and foremost a Chinese citizen” when they detained him, according to China’s foreign minister Wang Yi in 2016.    [FULL  STORY]

Date: November 15, 2018
By: Ivan Watson and Ben Westcott, CNN

Hong Kong (CNN)Every day, US-based Uyghur journalist Gulchehra Hoja tries to call her family in the Chinese region of Xinjiang. Sometimes she tries up to 20 different numbers, just hoping that someone will pick up.

“I know they won’t pick up the phone, but I try … nobody picks up,” she told CNN in an interview from her office in Washington.

She doesn’t expect an answer because 23 of her family members — including her aunt, her brothers, her cousins — have disappeared, along with tens of thousands of other ethnic Uyghurs inside enormous state-controlled “re-education camps.”

Hoja, who works as a journalist for US government-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA), says her brother was the first in the family to vanish in September 28, 2017.

“This is my brother and this is me,” she says, holding up a picture. “This was taken in summer 2000, it’s my birthday … this is my last picture with him …. (Now) he is missing. We don’t know where he is now.”

Uyghur journalist Gulchehra Hoja holds a pictures of her brother who has been missing in Xinjiang for more than a year

Her aunt, who raised her, and then her cousins vanished into Xinjiang’s vast detention system, without any explanation or trial. She says her parents, meanwhile, are kept under house arrest, unable even to go to a doctor without permission.

An estimated one million Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority in western China, are being held in camps across the region, according to a US congressional report.

The Chinese government has never explained the disappearances, which began in 2017, nor said how many people are being held in the camps, which they insist are “vocational training centers” that local “students” are happy to attend.

Defending his country’s human rights record at a United Nations forum in early November, China’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Yucheng said that his country had made “remarkable progress” in the past four decades, including “lifting more than a billion people out of poverty.”

But many other countries remain harshly critical of Beijing’s record, especially in regards to the Xinjiang camps. More than a dozen states including Australia, Germany and the United States have called on China to dismantle the camps and release those detained.     [FULL  STORY]

Proposed bill will urge Trump to condemn crackdown on Uighurs, press for ban on sale of surveillance technology.

Al Jazeera
Date: 13 Nov 2018

People mingle in the old town of Kashgar in Xinjiang in March last year [Thomas Peter/Reuters]
US legislators will introduce legislation on Wednesday urging the Trump administration to respond more strongly to China’s crackdown on Uighur Muslims, including possible sanctions.

The bill will also ask President Donald Trump to condemn China’s actions in the Xinjiang region, call for the appointment of a new “special coordinator” for US policy on the issue, and press for a ban on the export of technology that Beijing could use in surveillance and mass detention of the minority Uighurs, according to a copy seen by Reuters news agency.

The legislators want the government to consider human rights-related sanctions against Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, who is also a member of the powerful politburo, and other officials “credibly alleged to be responsible” for the security crackdown.

“Chinese government officials should be held accountable for their complicity in this evil, and US businesses should be barred from helping China create a hi-tech police state in Xinjiang,” said Chris Smith, a Republican representative and one of the sponsors of the bipartisan legislation that will be presented in both the upper and lower houses of Congress.

Is China persecuting its Uighur Muslim minority?


Date: Nov 3, 2018
By: Ewelina U. Ochab, Contributor

This picture taken on June 26, 2017, shows a Muslim man arriving at the Id Kah Mosque for the morning prayer on Eid al-Fitr in the old town of Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Uighur

In October 2018, several news outlets reported that Muslims in China were being detained for re-education purposes. The reports suggested that China was participating in the practice of forced conversion whereby Muslims, among other things, are forced to “eat pork and drink alcohol.” Activities that, in fact, have nothing to do with education. The topic has recently gained much attention, yet several politicians first raised this issue months ago, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) for example.

Autonomous Region. The increasingly strict curbs imposed on the mostly Muslim Uyghur population have stifled life in the tense Xinjiang region, where beards are partially banned and no one is allowed to pray in public. Beijing says the restrictions and heavy police presence seek to control the spread of Islamic extremism and separatist movements, but analysts warn that Xinjiang is becoming an open-air prison. (Photo credit: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
In a letter dated April 3, 2018, and sent by Marco Rubio and Chris Smith to US Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, the facts are made clear. The letter cites credible reports that between 500,000 and a million people are or have been detained in said re-education camps in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It alleges that this practice of re-education is the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today:

Thousands are being held for months at a time and subjected to political indoctrination sessions.  Many have reportedly been detained for praying, wearing “Islamic” clothing, or having foreign connections, such as previous travel abroad or relatives living in another country.  Reports have emerged of the deaths of detainees in these centers, including the death of a well-known Muslim religious scholar who may have been held in such a facility, and there are reports that torture and other human rights abuses are occurring in overcrowded centers secured by guard towers, barbed wire, and high walls.”

Even though, initially, the Chinese government denied the existence of such re-education camps, the subsequent steps taken by the Chinese government suggests otherwise. In October 2018, the Chinese government introduced a new law aimed at addressing extremism that may be seen as legalizing the reported re-education camps.    [FULL  STORY]

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