Imprisoned Chinese Writer Should Be Granted Medical Parole for Brain Tumor

Chinese authorities should immediately release imprisoned journalist Yang Tongyan from prison and allow him to seek medical care wherever he chooses, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

Relatives of Chinese writer Yang Tongyan, also known as Yang Tianshui, who is serving a 12-year jail term, said that authorities at Nanjing Prison informed them on Saturday that Yang had a brain tumor and told them to apply for medical parole, according to news reports. Prison officials told the journalists’ family that parole would be granted, but that Yang would not be allowed to leave the country, his relatives said.

Yang was jailed in 2006 on subversion charges, and has spent a total of 22 years in prison, including for an earlier conviction for opposing the 1989 military crackdown at Tiananmen Square. Previous applications for medical parole in 2010 and 2012 for other conditions, including tuberculosis, diabetes, and nephritis, were denied, according to reports.

The news of Yang’s tumor follows the death of Liu Xiaobo in July from liver cancer. Liu, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, died shortly after he was transferred from jail to confinement in a Chinese hospital.

“Yang Tongyan should be given immediate freedom to seek medical care anywhere in the world,” CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler said from Washington, D.C. “We urge Chinese authorities not to repeat the tragedy of Liu Xiaobo’s death in custody.”

Yang, known for his work for websites banned in China criticizing the ruling Communist Party and advocating the release of writers Zheng Yichun and Zhang Lin, is scheduled to complete his sentence in December.

CPJ has also called for the release of imprisoned journalist Huang Qi on medical parole. Huang’s lawyer, who met with Huang for the first time on July 28th — eight months after Huang’s arrest on charges of sharing state secrets abroad — reported that Huang’s medical treatments had been cut off on July 5th and that his health was deteriorating.

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China Must Protect Detained North Koreans Who Face Risk of Prison, Torture and Forced Labor

China should not deport 15 North Koreans held in Chinese detention back to North Korea, but should either grant them asylum or allow them to safely go to a third country, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday. North Koreans who are forcibly returned after fleeing their country face a real risk of torture, sexual violence and abuse, incarceration in forced labor camps and death.

According to North Koreans who have fled the country since 2013, or who maintain contacts inside the country, people repatriated by China face incarceration in forced labor camps, political prison camps (kwanliso), or even execution. Political prison camps in North Korea are characterized by systematic abuses and often deadly conditions, including meager rations that pose risk of starvation, virtually no medical care, lack of proper housing and clothes, regular mistreatment that includes sexual assault and torture by guards, and summary executions. Death rates in these camps are reported by former North Korean prisoners and guards to be extremely high. Detainees in ordinary prison camps also face forced labor in dangerous working conditions, food and medicine shortages, and regular mistreatment by guards.

“China needs to recognize that sending these 15 North Koreans back to their country means condemning them to suffer horrific rights violations, and immediately halt any effort to send them back into harm’s way,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “China’s leaders should instead call for Pyongyang to cease the human rights violations that are compelling people to flee the country in the first place.”

Human Rights Watch learned about the situation of the 15 detainees through a father whose son left North Korea and was apprehended by Chinese authorities with four other North Koreans in early July. This father learned that five people were first detained near the Laos border, then grouped with another ten North Koreans, including three children, in detention in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan province.

The father told Human Rights Watch that some family members of the detained North Koreans managed to visit the detention center where they were being held. They found out that on August 1, the group had been moved to the Tumen immigration detention facility in Jilin province, right across the border from the North Korean city of Namyang in North Hamgyong province. This facility is usually one of the last detention centers where North Koreans who face imminent forced return are held. On August 4th 2017, the father heard from a credible source that the 15 detainees, including his son, had arrived in Tumen, and authorities were preparing to send the group back to North Korea.

China regularly labels North Koreans as illegal “economic migrants” and forcibly repatriates them to North Korea under a 1986 bilateral border protocol.

According to interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch with North Koreans who have previously been apprehended in China and returned to North Korea, the North Korean government harshly punishes all those who leave the country without permission. In 2010, North Korea’s Ministry of People’s Security adopted a decree making defection a crime of “treachery against the nation,” punishable by death. Human Rights Watch considers all North Koreans in China who left without permission to have refugee status (as refugees sur place) because they have a well-founded fear of persecution if forcibly returned.

Forcing North Korean refugees back to their country constitutes refoulement, or the sending of persons back to territory where they face threats to life or freedom, which is forbidden by international treaties to which China is a party as well as by customary international law. Under the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, as well as the 1984 Convention against Torture, China is specifically obligated not to force back North Koreans, who would be placed at risk of persecution or torture.

For North Koreans who are returned and not sent to political prisoner camps, the authorities may sentence them to between two to 15 years forced labor in ordinary prison camps (kyohwaso, or re-education correctional facilities) for living or working illegally in China.

A former senior official in the North Korean state security service (bowibu), who previously worked on the border and received North Koreans sent back from China, told Human Rights Watch that officials under his command tortured every returnee to find out where they went in China, who they contacted, and what they had done while outside North Korea.

The 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in North Korea found that crimes against humanity, including torture, execution, enslavement, and sexual violence, are committed against prisoners and people forcibly returned to North Korea from China. On July 27, 2017, Tomás Ojea Quintana, the special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, said: “North Koreans who leave their country are caught in a horrendous cycle of physical and psychological violence, and I received information that some take their own lives when they find out that they are scheduled for repatriation.”

Human Rights Watch calls on China to protect those in Chinese custody, to grant North Koreans asylum or safe passage to other countries, and to allow the UN refugee agency to exercise its mandate and protect North Korean asylum seekers.

“China should demonstrate to the UN and governments around the world that it will no longer be complicit with the North Korean government’s rights violations against its own people,” Robertson said. “By protecting these 15 North Koreans, Beijing would send a strong message that China will no longer play along and ignore North Korea’s human rights abuses.”

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Lao Authorities Must Immediately Investigate Abduction of Thai Activist

The Lao authorities should urgently investigate the abduction of an exiled Thai activist Wuthipong Kachathamakul, also known as Ko Tee, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday. Eyewitnesses stated that a group of unknown armed assailants abducted him in Vientiane on July 29th 2017, raising grave concerns for his safety.

On July 29th at approximately 9:45 a.m., a group of 10 armed men dressed in black and wearing black balaclavas assaulted Wuthipong, his wife, and a friend as they were about to enter Wuthipong’s house in Vientiane according to multiple witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch. The assailants hit them, shocked them with stun guns, tied their hands with plastic handcuffs, covered their eyes, and gagged their mouths. Wuthipong was then put in a car and driven away to an unknown location while his wife and his friend were left at the scene.

According to Wuthipong’s wife and his friend, the assailants were speaking among themselves in Thai. The incident was reported to Lao authorities in Vientiane.

“Wuthipong’s shocking abduction by armed men in Vientiane needs to be fully investigated; it should not be treated with silence or swept under the rug,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Lao government needs to move quickly to ascertain the facts and publicly report their findings, including an assessment of Wuthipong’s whereabouts and who might be responsible for this crime that was so boldly carried out in its own capital city.”

Lao authorities should mount a serious effort to find Wuthipong if he is still in Laos, and take immediate steps to prosecute any persons in Laos who were involved in this abduction, Human Rights Watch said.

The Lao government should also permit the office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to open an office in Vientiane to provide protection for persons fleeing political persecution in Thailand and other countries.

In media interviews on July 31st 2017, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan and the army chief Gen. Chalermchai Sitthisart denied knowledge of Wuthipong’s abduction and said they have not received any official reports from Lao authorities yet.

Wuthipong operated a community radio network affiliated with the red-shirted United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) in Thailand’s Pathum Thani province. His programs were known for having a strong anti-monarchy stance. Thai authorities have repeatedly accused him of using his radio program to call for the use of violence, and playing an instrumental role in several violent clashes with the royalist People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

After the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) staged a coup and took power in the May 2014, he fled to Laos to escape lese majeste (insulting monarchy) charges. The Thai government also accused him of involvement with anti-government militia groups and plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha and other members of the NCPO junta.

The Thai government lists Wuthipong as one of the most wanted of the exiled activists that Thai authorities have repeatedly requested the Lao government to arrest and extradite to Thailand. While in exile in Laos, Wuthipong continued to broadcast online radio programs in which he strongly criticized both military rule in Thailand and the Thai monarchy.

Since taking office in April 2016, the new Lao government of Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has repeatedly failed to adequately respond to the country’s serious human rights problems, Human Rights Watch said. Lao authorities have routinely disregarded concerns raised by human rights groups. In June 2016, Itthipol Sukpaen, an exiled Thai activist who broadcasted anti-monarchy radio programs, vanished in Vientiane. The Lao government failed to conduct a serious investigation.

Laos has signed, but not ratified, the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Under international law, an enforced disappearance occurs when a person is detained by persons acting on behalf of the state, followed by a refusal of the state to acknowledge their detention or whereabouts, with the intention of placing them outside the law.

Despite its obligation to conduct a transparent, thorough, and impartial investigation into all cases of alleged enforced disappearances, to resolve them, and bring those responsible to justice, the Lao government has failed to make progress on at least 10 cases of enforced disappearance, including the case of prominent civil society activist Sombath Somphone—who was last seen being taken away from a police checkpoint in Vientiane on December 15th 2012.

“The Lao government has a responsibility to find out what happened to Wuthipong and identify all those responsible, regardless of the political consequences,” Adams said. “Foreign donor organizations and governments with relationships with the Lao government should speak up now to press Vientiane to answer what happened to Wuthipong.”

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Seoul and Pyongyang Should Discuss Human Rights Urges UN Special Rapporteur

Human rights should feature high on the talks agenda in South Korea’s proposed initiative to resume military and humanitarian dialogue with the North, a United Nations rights expert says.

The Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Tomás Ojea Quintana, said the opportunity to discuss human rights must be seized as part of the current efforts to restore severed ties between the two countries.

“While I welcome the initiative by the administration of President Moon Jae-in to resume dialogue, it is important that that engagement serves as a platform for North Korea to discuss ways to improve human rights,” Ojea Quintana said, ending his second mission to the Republic of Korea (ROK) since his appointment by the UN Human Rights Council last year.

Pyongyang has recently rejected a call by Seoul to resume family reunions, which have not been held for two years, after the DPRK resumed nuclear tests and long-range missile launches.

North Korea has also said that further reunions can only take place if 12 restaurant workers, whom it says South Korea abducted from China in 2016, are returned. Ojea Quintana said the account he has received contains inconsistencies, and pledged to follow up on the issue with the concerned parties to help the women and their families reconnect.

The Special Rapporteur also met with a man who wishes to return to North Korea where his wife and son live, despite the risk of being punished for leaving for South Korea three years ago.

“If anything, these cases highlight the complexity of the family separation issue that started 70 years ago, and the fact that it continues to take new forms and affect people in the Korean peninsula in profound ways,” he argued.

The expert highlighted a surge in detentions and forced repatriations of North Koreans caught in China, who usually receive harsh labour sentences when they are sent back.

“North Koreans who leave their country are caught in a horrendous cycle of physical and psychological violence, and I received information that some take their own lives when they find out that they are scheduled for repatriation,” said Ojea Quintana.

The expert noted that China has a responsibility to abide by the principle of non-refoulement in international law. “I appeal to the Government of China to halt the policy, protect those in custody and engage with my mandate and with relevant UN agencies to think of alternatives,” he stressed.

The Special Rapporteur reiterated his deep concern about the human rights situation in North Korea.

“The information I have been receiving points to different violations that continue to affect the lives of ordinary North Koreans and even foreigners,” he said, highlighting allegations of arbitrary detention, human trafficking and enforced disappearances, as well as sexual and gender-based violence against women detained in holding centres in the border areas.

He also identified detention conditions as a matter of continuing concern: “The prospect of being sent to a political prison camp keeps haunting North Koreans. The fear is so great that people assume anyone who disappears must have been sent to one of the five known camps.”

“The issue concerns foreigners too, some of whom have been detained for months without access to consular assistance to which they are entitled”, he added.

A recent crackdown on the use of electronic equipment and foreign audiovisual material was brought to the expert’s attention. “The Government campaign seems to contrast with wider access to smart phones and foreign DVDs within the population. Information does come in despite all the restrictions and penalties,” he said.  

Since his appointment the expert has pursued what has been termed by his predecessor a ‘two-track approach’, combining calls for dialogue with an emphasis on the need to hold the authorities to account.

“While the debate on accountability will continue to expand following the latest DPRK resolutions at the UN Security and Human Rights Councils, we need to broaden the concept and consider it as part of the larger question of what it takes to ensure freedom and dignity for all North Koreans. Of course that conversation also involves the authorities”, Ojea Quintana emphasized.

During his five-day mission to Seoul, from July 17 to 21, the Special Rapporteur met senior members of the Government as well as representatives of civil society and other groups. His requests for access to North Korea have not been granted.

The Special Rapporteur will report his findings and recommendations to the UN General Assembly in October 2017.

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Myanmar Must Release Journalists, Stop Intimidation

The Myanmar authorities must immediately and unconditionally release three journalists who were arrested in conflict-ridden northern Shan State last month, Amnesty International said ahead of their trial scheduled for Monday.

Aye Nai and Pyae Phone Aung, both reporters for the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), and Thein Zaw (aka Lawi Weng), a reporter for the Irrawaddy newspaper, were arrested on June 26th, along with four other people they were travelling with.

They have since been charged under the Unlawful Association Act and could face up to three years in prison if convicted. Three others arrested with them are also facing charges, including under the same Act, while a seventh man arrested on June 26th has since been released.

“The farcical charges against these journalists must be dropped immediately, they have done nothing but carry out their work peacefully,” said James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. “This is a clear attempt by the authorities to intimidate journalists and silence their critical coverage. It is exactly in northern Shan State and the other ethnic areas wracked by conflict, where appalling human rights abuses are rife, that independent journalism is needed the most.”

Soldiers from the Tatmadaw – Myanmar’s armed forces – arrested the journalists as they tried to report on a drug-burning ceremony in an area controlled by the ethnic armed group Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

The media workers were held incommunicado in a secret location for two days after their arrest, before they were transferred to Hsipaw prison in northern Shan State where they are currently detained. Their trial is due to start July 28th at the Hsipaw Township Court. Legal proceedings to date have been marred by a lack of transparency, and two earlier court appearances were unexpectedly rescheduled, raising concerns about access to lawyers.

The Myanmar authorities have for years used a slew of draconian laws to intimidate, harass, arrest and imprison critics and media workers. The Unlawful Association Act is one such law – it grants authorities sweeping powers to arrest people considered to be part of or in contact with an “unlawful association”, and is in particular often used in ethnic and religious minority areas.

“Many had hoped that the days when Myanmar relied on its repressive legal framework to silence peaceful criticism were long gone, but sadly the same old patterns of repression continue. The Unlawful Association Act is so vaguely worded that it can easily be misused to jail political opponents as well as journalists on the most flimsy grounds – it must be repealed immediately,” said James Gomez.

The seven men were detained in northern Shan State, in the north part of Myanmar, an area that has seen intense fighting between the Myanmar Army and a range of ethnic armed groups in recent years. In a report released in June this year, Amnesty International documented how civilians from ethnic minority groups in Kachin and northern Shan State are suffering appalling abuses, including possible war crimes, at the hands of the Myanmar Army.

“All the Civilian Suffer”: Conflict, Displacement and Abuse in Northern Myanmar details how soldiers from Myanmar’s Armed Forces have carried out torture, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, indiscriminate shelling of civilian villages, and put punitive restrictions on movement and humanitarian access.

Amnesty International also documented human rights abuses carried out by ethnic armed groups operating in the area, including the TNLA, such as abductions, forced recruitment and forced taxation of civilians.

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Yet Another Vietnamese Human Rights Defenders Sentenced in Closed Trial

Vietnamese human rights defender and blogger Tran Thi Nga was sentenced to nine years imprisonment followed by an additional 5 years of house arrest. She was charged under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code for “using the Internet to spread propaganda videos and writings that are against the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” Rights groups strongly condemn her conviction and sentence. 

Tran Thi Nga, an activist who blogged under the pen name “Thuy Nga,” campaigned against state abuses, including trafficking, the confiscation of land and police brutality. Nga is a member of Vietnamese Women For Human Rights, a group that includes overseas Vietnamese wishing to lend support, training and encouragement to those who stand up to defend human rights in Vietnam. She has also assisted those whose land has been confiscated by local authorities and has demonstrated in support of democratic reform.

“The harassment, arbitrary arrest and trial of Tran Thi Nga follow a familiar pattern of repression that will inevitably continue unless Hanoi enacts significant institutional and legislative reforms, including the amendment of the country’s numerous repressive laws,” said FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos.

Nga was held for over six months in pre-trial detention. On July 25th 2017, Tran Thi Nga was sentenced to nine years in prison and five years under house arrest on the charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code. Her trial, held in the People’s Court in the southern province of Ha Nam, was closed to independent journalists and foreign diplomats. The defender’s husband and her young children were not allowed to attend the trial, nor were activists who came to the province to support her.

A large number of police officers and plainclothes agents were deployed around the court premises, and some supporters reported being physically accosted as they tried to approach the building.

Nga was arrested on January 21st 2017 and charged under Article 88 of the 1999 Vietnamese Penal Code for posting articles and videos online in which she condemned human rights violations committed by Vietnamese authorities. On the same day, Tran Thi Nga’s partner Luong Dan Ly, a pro-democracy activist and blogger, was also arrested. He was released the following day.

According to the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) Tran Thi Nga has suffered repeated intimidation, harassment, detention, interrogation, and physical assaults by security agents because of her human rights activities. In May 2014, a group of five men assaulted her with iron rods, breaking her arm and leg. In the days prior to her arrest in January 2017, Tran Thi Nga was subjected to increased police intimidation and harassment, including surveillance of her home and the use of physical force to keep her from leaving her house. Police also refused to allow a neighbor to take her two young sons to the city to buy them food.

“The result of Tran Thi Nga’s trial is a foregone conclusion and it certainly won’t be the last conviction of a human rights defender by Viet Nam’s kangaroo courts. Without renewed international pressure, Hanoi’s crackdown on human rights defenders will continue unabated,” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OCMT) and VCHR urged Vietnamese authorities to drop all charges against Tran Thi Nga and immediately release her.

“We strongly condemn the prosecution of Tran Thi Nga, which illustrates once more the Vietnamese Government’s relentless efforts to intimidate and silence human rights defenders for their legitimate human rights activities. Viet Nam must immediately and unconditionally free Tran Thi Nga and all other jailed human rights defenders,” said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.

Over the past few months Tran Thi Nga’s state of health has been declining due to a mucosal injury sustained in May 2014 after she was beaten by authorities in reprisal for her work documenting rights’ violations. According to her lawyer, she was denied proper medical treatment while detained in Ha Nam Police Detention Center.

Front Line Defenders says it believes Nga’s conviction to be solely motivated by her peaceful and legitimate work for human rights in Vietnam, and calls on the Vietnamese authorities to quash her conviction and immediately release her. Front Line Defenders further calls on Vietnamese authorities to ensure that Tran Thi Nga receives all necessary medical treatment.

The Committee to Protect Journalists also condemned the verdict and called on Vietnamese authorities to cease jailing journalists.

“Vietnam’s repression of brave bloggers like Tran Thi Nga must stop,” Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s Southeast Asia representative, said. “We call on Vietnamese authorities to repeal this outrageous verdict and release all of the journalists now being held on trumped up anti-state charges.”

Article 88 has been widely used against human rights defenders who have highlighted abuses in Vietnam. On June 29th 2017, human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh was given a 10 year jail sentence after a one day trial in the People’s Court in Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa province. She was jailed for her work demanding accountability and transparency following the illegal discharge of toxic waste into the sea off the Vietnamese coast in April 2016 by the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel company, a Taiwanese-owned steel plant in Ha Tinh province. The ensuing environmental disaster resulted in the deaths of millions of fish, leaving fishermen jobless in four coastal provinces. She was held incommunicado for more than eight months before her one-day trial.

Vietnam held at least eight journalists behind bars in late 2016, when CPJ last conducted its annual census of journalists jailed worldwide.

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Cambodia Must Drop Charges Against Land Rights Defenders

Cambodian authorities should immediately end the politically motivated prosecution of six land rights activists, including the prominent advocate Tep Vanny, who has been jailed for nearly a year, Human Rights Watch said Friday. Tep Vanny has been detained for 333 days for peaceful protests.

On July 14th 2017, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court is expected to review charges of “public insult” and “death threats” that have been brought against Tep Vanny and other members of the Boeung Kak Lake community, namely Kong Chantha, Nget Khun, Cheng Leap, Heng Mom, and Tol Sreypov. The charges, dating back to a spurious complaint made in 2012, carry penalties of up to 10 million riels (US$2,400) for public insult (article 307) and up to two years in prison and 4 million riels ($970) for death threats (article 233).

“Prosecuting Tep Vanny and her fellow land rights activists is the Hun Sen government’s latest retaliatory act in its campaign to intimidate critical voices,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should drop these bogus charges immediately.”

In February, another court sentenced Tep Vanny to 30 months in prison for “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances” under article 218 of the Cambodian Criminal Code. She was found guilty of assaulting security guards during a 2013 protest outside the house of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

No credible evidence was presented during the trial to substantiate these charges. The court refused to hear testimony from witnesses supporting Tep Vanny’s account that she and other protesters did not commit any violence during the protest. During the trial, para-police kicked, shoved, and dragged activists who had gathered outside the court, resulting in injuries to two Boeung Kak activists and one pregnant woman. Video footage of the incident shows para-police chasing demonstrators into a neighboring mall, and guards cornering one protester and repeatedly punching and kicking him.

Since August 15th 2016, Tep Vanny has been held at CC2 Prey Sar facility prison on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, where she is now awaiting the outcome of her appeal against the February 2017 conviction and prison sentence.

Tep Vanny, one of Cambodia’s leading land rights activists, has worked to combat unlawful evictions and corruption by mobilizing affected communities in the Boeung Kak Lake area of Phnom Penh, where over 4,000 families have had to vacate their homes for a private development project. In 2013, she received a Vital Voices Global Leadership Award for her work on land rights.

She has also been an important voice on behalf of fellow activists, notably when she was arrested while leading a so-called Black Monday protest calling for the release of the “ADHOC Five.” The five current and former members of the human rights group ADHOC were recently released on bail after spending 427 days in arbitrary pre-trial detention. Tep Vanny has also been active in urging an independent investigation into the July 10, 2016 shooting death of Kem Ley, a popular social commentator and frequent government critic.

Cambodin authorities should drop the charges against Tep Vanny and the other land rights activists, and quash Tep Vanny’s earlier conviction and immediately release her. The government should cease persecution of human rights defenders and others exercising their fundamental rights to free expression, association, and peaceful assembly.

“Cambodia’s international donors should be outraged by this latest wave of politically motivated prosecutions of rights advocates,” Robertson said. “Together they should publicly call for the release of Tep Vanny and an end to the government’s campaign against peaceful protesters.”

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Chinese Authorities Must End Crackdown on Human Rights Defenders

The Chinese authorities must end their ruthless campaign of detention and torture of human rights lawyers and activists, Amnesty International says. Today marks the second anniversary of the start of an unprecedented crackdown launched under President Xi Jinping during which nearly 250 human rights lawyers and activists have been targeted during the nationwide sweep which began on July 9th 2015.

Six people have since been convicted for “subverting state power” or “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. Three others are still awaiting trials or verdicts.

‘’This vicious crackdown marked by arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, torture and ill-treatment and fake confessions must end now,’’ said Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia Director at Amnesty International.

“For two years the Chinese government has been methodically decimating the ranks of human rights lawyers and activists. This vicious crackdown marked by arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, torture and ill-treatment and fake confessions must end now,” Bequelin added. “Lawyers and rights advocates play a crucial role in protecting human rights and the rule of law. The torment that they and their families continue to be subjected to flies in the face of the Chinese government claim that it upholds the rule of law.”

Torture and ill-treatment

The torture of detained lawyers remains a systemic issue. One lawyer released on bail in May, Xie Yang, told his lawyers he had suffered beatings, lengthy interrogations and was deprived of water and sleep during his 22 months in detention.

The wife of another lawyer, Li Heping, has described how her husband was force-fed with medicines and chained for up to 24 hours a day during his detention. Li was given a three year suspended prison sentence in April for“subverting state power”.


Incommunicado detentions remain routine. Lawyer Wang Quanzhang was detained by the Chinese authorities in August 2015. As of today his family still have no information as to where he is, his condition or even if he is still alive.

Another prominent Chinese human rights lawyer, Jiang Tianyong, was taken away by police in November last year, after visiting the wife of a fellow lawyer who was detained in the first wave of the crackdown.

For months, the authorities refused to provide Jiang Tianyong’s family any information about his whereabouts. In May, the police finally informed the family Jiang had been formally arrested for “subverting state power”, a charge which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. He is being held at Changsha City No. 1 Detention Center in central China, but his lawyers continue to be prevented from visiting him. He is still waiting to hear if prosecutors will pursue charges against him.

Continuing harassment

The detention of lawyer Wang Yu and her family on July 9th 2015 sparked the beginning of the government crackdown. Despite Wang Yu and her husband Bao Longjun being released on bail last year, they remain under close surveillance and continue to be harassed by the authorities.

“The authorities must end their cold-blooded treatment of human rights lawyers and activists. They must stop this torment and free the lawyers and activists who have been detained solely for doing their work and defending human rights,” said Nicholas Bequelin.

The crackdown against human rights lawyers is part of a calculated operation by the Chinese government to suppress civil society. New or proposed laws give the authorities nearly unchecked powers to target individuals and organizations that are seen to criticize the government and its policies.

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Cambodian Civil Society Condemns Denial of Medical Care to Human Rights Defenders

Cambodian civil society organizations are condemning the discriminatory and arbitrary denial of medical care to three of the five #Freethe5KH detainees at Phnom Penh’s CC1 (Prey Sar) prison facility. Mr. Ny Sokha, Mr. Nay Vanda and Mr. Yi Soksan have finally been granted access to doctors from the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), after such access had been arbitrarily restricted since April 2017.

All three detainees experienced a serious deterioration in their health while the restrictions were in place. They have now been held in pre-trial detention for 426 days, along with their colleague at the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Ms. Lim Mony, and Deputy Secretary General of the National Election Committee and former ADHOC staff member, Mr. Ny Chakrya.

LICADHO doctors had been able to treat all five #FreeThe5KH detainees in the three different prison facilities located in Phnom Penh since the beginning of their detention, until restrictions were imposed in April in relation to the three detainees in CC1. In the past two weeks, sporadic, application-by-application access to two of the three human rights defenders (HRDs) was granted by the Investigating Judge and the Director of CC1, due to serious health concerns regarding Yi Soksan and Ny Sokha. Full access was granted again just last week.

The organizations are deeply concerned that the three detainees experienced serious deterioration in health – in particular that on June 18th 2017 Ny Sokha collapsed in a prison bathroom. The organizations believe this incident was exacerbated by the denial of regular medical check-ups by medical staff, as well as woeful conditions inside CC1. On June 21st, Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan and Lim Mony appeared at the Supreme Court for the hearing of their appeal against a further denial of bail in their case. During the hearing, Nay Vanda needed to be excused to rest in a side room as he was feeling nauseous, while Ny Sokha and Yi Soksan reported feeling weak due to a recent decline in their health.

“At the very least, Cambodian authorities must now take these serious health concerns into account and stop prolonging their baseless pre-trial detention through denial of bail,” said Naly Pilorge, LICADHO Deputy Director for Advocacy.

The right to adequate medical care, enshrined in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is a universal human right that is not diminished by incarceration. While there are prison medical staff in CC1, it is clear that the medical care currently provided by such staff is not adequate. The discriminatory obstruction of access to treatment by LICADHO medical teams therefore meant that the three were deprived of the adequate health care to which they are entitled under domestic and international law.

Prison conditions, which already fail to meet international standards, have significantly worsened since the Cambodian authorities began a crackdown on people who use drugs in January 2017. Mass arrests and the overuse of pre-trial detention have caused severe overcrowding in Prey Sar prison, leading to increasingly acute impacts on prisoners’ health.

In addition to the obstruction of access by medical staff, in recent months requests by civil society organizations to visit the #FreeThe5KH detainees, as well as detained human rights defender and land activist Tep Vanny, have been denied or ignored. This restriction on contact with the outside world has negatively affected the HRDs’ psychological health.

In November 2016 the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) ruled that all five #FreeThe5KH detainees had been discriminated against based on their status as human rights defenders, that the violation of the detainees’ rights to a fair trial, liberty, and freedom of association rendered their detention “arbitrary,” and called on the Cambodian authorities to immediately release them. More than seven months later, the five remain in prison, with their pre-trial detention extended for up to a further six months on April 27th 2017.

The on-going arbitrary detention of Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, Lim Mony, and Ny Chakrya is in violation of international and Cambodian law and we call on the Cambodian authorities to comply with the UNWGAD’s decision and release them immediately and unconditionally, the organizations say: ‘’We call upon the General Department of Prisons to make the procedure to access healthcare more transparent, as arbitrary and opaque restrictions have already risked endangering the health and lives of detainees, and we call on the Cambodian authorities to maintain unrestricted access to all detainees by medical teams and prison monitors.’’

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Liu Xiaobo Released On Medical Parole for Late-Stage Cancer Treatment, Should Be Reunited With His Wife

Candlelight vigil for activist Liu Xiaobo outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on January 12, 2010. AFP PHOTO/MIKE CLARKE

Responding to the news that Chinese Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo has developed late-stage liver cancer while in prison and is currently in the hospital receiving treatment, human rights organizations are saying that he never should have been imprisoned in the first place.

A prominent Chinese intellectual, democracy activist and the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Liu is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for inciting subversion of state power.

International human rights group Freedom Now, which has served as international counsel to the imprisoned activist, said their organization is deeply disturbed that Liu’s health was neglected by the Chinese authorities: “We are grateful for Dr. Liu’s release but are deeply disturbed by the circumstances under which the Chinese government granted him parole,” said Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner. “It is unconscionable that the government neglected Dr. Liu’s health, despite repeated calls from the international community to ensure proper care. The Chinese authorities must guarantee that Dr. Liu receive medical treatment for this grave condition and that he is able to be with his wife Liu Xia and his family during this time.”

Amnesty International’s China Researcher Patrick Poon said: “It adds insult to injury that Liu Xiaobo, who should never have been put in prison in the first place, has been diagnosed with a grave illness.’’ Poon also said “The Chinese authorities should immediately ensure that Liu Xiaobo receives adequate medical care, effective access to his family and that he and all others imprisoned solely for exercising their human rights are immediately and unconditionally released.’’

Liu was awarded the Nobel Prize in absentia in 2010 for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” Liu was one of the leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen protests and was detained and arrested afterward. He was one of the leading authors of Charter 08, which was written to promote human rights and democratization in China.

“That he was ever in prison at all says all one needs to know about Chinese leaders’ profound hostility toward peaceful expression and the rule of law. It appears highly unlikely that his release will equal real freedom – for him, or for all others who simply seek peaceful, positive change in China,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.

Poon also said that Liu and his wife Lu Jia should be freed and reunited: ‘’The authorities must also stop their shameful and illegal house arrest of Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, and ensure that she is able to receive visitors, travel freely and reunite with Liu Xiaobo.” 

Liu Xiaobo was arrested in December 2008 and held under ‘’residential surveillance”, a form of pre-trial detention, at an undisclosed location in Beijing until he was formally charged on June 23, 2009 with ‘’spreading rumors and defaming the government, aimed at subversion of the state and overthrowing the socialism system in recent years”. On December 25, 2009 Liu was charged and sentenced to eleven years in prison for ‘’inciting subversion of state power”; his sentence also includes two years of deprivation of his political rights. He has three years left of his current sentence. Prior to his current arrest, Liu has spent a total of five years in prison, including a three year sentence passed in 1996, and has suffered frequent short arrests, harassment and censorship.

Liu was poignantly represented by an empty chair at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Oslo. When told of the announcement after October 8, he wept and told his wife, Liu Xia, that it was dedicated to the martyrs of Tiananmen. Liu Xia has been under house arrest since the award announcement and is incommunicado.

In 2013, more than 450,000 people from 130 countries signed a petition created by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to demand the couple’s immediate release. The petition was launched in solidarity with a letter signed by 134 Nobel laureates demanding Liu’s freedom.

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