Documentary Follows Victims of Khmer Rouge

Ms Ros, Civil Party in the Case n°002, in Phnom Penh, August 2014. Photo courtesy FIDH.

Ms. Ros, civil party in case n°002 visit the Tuol Sleng (S21) Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, August 2014. Photo courtesy FIDH.

As the second trial of Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea reopened Friday, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) released a documentary which tells the story of three Cambodian women living in France who travel to Phnom Penh on August 4th 2014 to attend the historic verdict against two of the highest-ranking living political leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime. Khieu and Nuon received life sentences two months ago and now face genocide charges.

Case No. 002 – History of a Verdict follows 
Mrs. Féniès, Mrs. Ou and Mrs. Ros, who were all victims of international crimes under the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979. With the help of FIDH they filed a complaint as civil parties before the ECCC, seeking justice for themselves and their families who died under the Khmer Rouge regime, a justice they were awaiting for almost 40 years.

Khieu Samphan, 83, and Nuon Chea, 88, stood before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in the first case for crimes against humanity and genocide. On August 7th, the ECCC convicted Nuon Chea, 88, and Khieu Samphan, 83, and sentenced them to life in prison. It is the first time that high-ranking officials of the Khmer Rouge regime have been convicted by an independent court and represents a critical step against impunity.

They were found guilty of the crimes against humanity of murder, political persecution, forced transfer, attacks against human dignity, enforced disappearances and extermination during forced movements of population in Cambodia from April 17th 1975 to December 1977. They were also found guilty of the crimes against humanity of murder, political persecution and extermination of former soldiers and officials of the Khmer Republic at Tuol Po Chrey in Pursat Province. Both men have appealed their convictions.

In opening statements Friday, deputy prosecutor William Smith said the hearings “will ensure a more comprehensive accounting” of the crimes of which Khieu and Nuon are accused, so that “Cambodia’s past is not buried but built and learnt from.”

Case 002/02 is the second trial against Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea. The alleged crime which form the basis for Case 002/02 include genocide against the ethnic Muslim Cham and the Vietnamese; nationwide forced marriages and rape; internal purges; and treatment of Buddhists, among other charges. Prosecutors will begin calling witnesses on Monday.

In the documentary, Mrs. Touch Féniès recalls: ”OnApril 17th 1975 the population of Phnom Penh was forced to walk into the jungle. They were on their bikes, with their guns, dressed in black uniforms. At each house, they would holler from their bikes for the people to come out so they could clean up the city. First we didn’t believe it but then we saw the neighbors running, terrified. Women giving birth on the side of the road, the Khmer Rouge kept making them walk.”

Mrs. Sokhon Neang Muong Ou remembered the same day: ”That April 17th they chased me from my home. We went where we were ordered to. And we didn’t know where they were taking us. We walked, and walked and walked. There were many people on the road. We were pressed up against each other. We had trouble moving forward. It was very hot. People began to die, one after another.”

Ms. Ros, Ms. Fenies and Ms Ou, civil parties in case n°002 in Phnom Penh, August 2014. Photo courtesy FIDH.

Ms. Ros, Ms. Fenies and Ms Ou, civil parties in case n°002 visit the Tuol Sleng (S21) Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, August 2014. Photo courtesy FIDH.

Since 2008, FIDH, through lawyers from its Litigation Action Group (LAG), has been representing 10 victims, living in France and Civil Parties in Case 002/01 before the ECCC. FIDH enabled them to attend the verdict hearing in Phnom Penh. FIDH, together with its member organisations in Cambodia, ADHOC and LICADHO, has organized various missions and seminars in Cambodia on the ECCC and has published several reports and position papers, focusing on the role of victims in ECCC proceedings, their rights to participation, legal representation and reparation. ADHOC enabled 46 Civil Parties from 23 provinces in Cambodia to attend the hearing.

Khmer Rouge rule under the leadership of Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and others resulted in the deaths of as many as two million Cambodians, more than one-quarter of the population. Pol Pot, known as “Brother Number One,” died in 1998 after years of protection from Thailand and China.

The Khmer Rouge took power in April 1975, at the end of the United States’ war in Indochina. Led by Pol Pot and Nuon Chea, they ruled the country until January 7th 1979, when Vietnam drove them out. Estimates suggest that as many as two million of Cambodia’s eight million people were killed or died from disease, starvation, or forced labor during this period.

You can view the documentary, with sub-titles in French, English, Spanish and Khmer here:

A live audio and video stream of  the hearings is available on the ECCC website throughout the trial.

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Cambodian Investigative Journalist Victim Of “Cold Blooded Murder”

Cambodian journalist Taing Try was shot dead Sunday in Cambodia while investigating the illegal logging in the southern province of Kratie along with five other journalists. Three suspects have been arrested. Rights organizations are appalled by the act and calling for a thorough investigation.

Taing Try was shot while in his car early Sunday.  He was investigating claims that a local warehouse was housing illegal timber. Reporters Without Borders said that it was a ‘’cold-blooded murder’’ of a journalist who was investigating a sensitive story.

According to reports, a freelance reporter and a member of the independent Khmer Journalists for Democracy Association, Taing Try was traveling with a group of other journalists. Soon after, the vehicle carrying Try and another reporter became stuck on a dirt road. An assailant approached and shot Try in the forehead. The assailant attempted to drive away from the scene, but was forced to flee on foot after his vehicle crashed. The car of the suspected killer was found 200 meters down the road where he had to abandon it.

The deputy police chief in Kratie province, Oum Phy, briefed reporters Monday and said that the authorities had concluded their investigation. “Three people were involved with the murder—one is the killer, one is an accomplice, and another one owns the gun. After our investigation, there are no more suspects,” he said Monday.

Oum Phy identified the suspects as business partners: Ben Hieng, 31, Mondolkiri police chief Ben Hieng; Khim Pheakdey, 27, a military police officer; and La Narong, 32, a member of the Cambodia Royal Air Force, who is the suspected gunman.

“The fact that some of the people running this lucrative trafficking in timber hold senior positions must not afford them any kind of immunity,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk. “If the three detained suspects really were involved in this shocking murder, we hope they will be tried like anyone else.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the killing and called on authorities to identify the motive and ensure the perpetrators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. “Cambodian journalists reporting on sensitive environmental issues, especially the rampant illegal logging trade, are all too frequently targeted with threats and reprisals,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “We call on Cambodian authorities to identify the motive behind the killing and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

At the press conference, Oum Phy said Taing Try had threatened to report the three suspects to the authorities.

Hean Chheavkun, the provincial head of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) said that her organization had not yet concluded its investigation of the murder. She said authorities need to provide better protection for journalists as well as staff of NGOs.

The National Press Council of Cambodia, a coalition of 10 press associations, condemned the killing Monday. “This is an act of brutality against the reporter. The authorities must ensure that the killers are prosecuted,” the council said in a statement.

Illegal logging activities are rife in Cambodia, and news coverage of the trade has proven to be extremely dangerous for journalists, according to CPJ research.

In September 2012, environmentalist reporter Hang Serei Oudom lost his life because of his coverage of deforestation and illegal logging in protected areas. He frequently reported on illegal logging in eastern Ratanakiri province, was found murdered in the trunk of his car. Two suspects, a military police officer and his wife, were acquitted in April 2013 due to lack of evidence.

In April 2012, environmental activist Chut Wutty was shot and killed in April while leading two Cambodian Daily reporters to an illegal logging site in southern Koh Kong province. The gunman was killed in unclear circumstances.

Cambodia is ranked 144th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Freedom of information is increasingly restricted in Cambodia and journalists who cover illegal logging are often the targets of threats.

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The World Bank Group Must Tackle Rights Abuses When Engaging With Myanmar

The World Bank Group (WBG) should act to overcome Myanmar’s major human rights problems in its new strategy for the country, Human Rights Watch said Monday. In a submission to the bank, the organization highlights key issues including rights violations against ethnic minorities, widespread land grabs and systematic corruption they say must be addressed as part of its engagement strategy.

Despite significant reforms, Myanmar’s reform process remains tenuous, particularly approaching the 2015 elections. Serious problems remain, and Human Rights Watch says that some reforms have stalled; others have slid backward. In light of this, Human Rights Watch is urging the WBG to proceed with a short-term Country Partnership Framework or Country Engagement Note that would require the WBG to take stock of the situation in Myanmar following the elections and determine an appropriate path for engagement at that time.

The World Bank Group cautiously re-engaged with the Myanmar government in 2012 and is developing a more comprehensive partnership framework for the next five years. Since the WBG’s initial moves to re-engage with Myanmar, Human Rights Watch has urged the WBG to carefully sequence its involvement to support reforms in the country.

“The World Bank should be taking stock of the human rights situation in Burma as the 2015 elections approach,” said Jessica Evans, senior international financial institutions researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The elections could be a milestone in Burma’s reform efforts or a major setback, and the bank will need to set the best path for engagement.”

The World Bank Group consists of four organizations tasked with reducing global poverty and achieving sustainable development, and an arbitration body. Before it re-engaged with Myanmar in 2012, the World Bank had not provided financial aid to the country since 1987, when it was ruled by an abusive military junta. While there has been an increase in development aid in the past two years, Myanmar remains one of the poorest countries in the region.

WBG President Jim Kim should highlight ongoing problems of discrimination and abuses against ethnic minorities, land and labor rights, access to justice, and corruption when he meets with Burmese finance officials during the World Bank/International Monetary Fund annual meetings in Washington, DC next week.

The World Bank Group is piloting a new process for country engagement in Myanmar, first identifying major challenges to sustainable, inclusive development. The next step is to work with the government on a strategy to address the challenges. For this new process to be meaningful, the bank should not ignore controversial issues such as human rights, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch urged the World Bank to fully analyze Myanmar’s positive developments and the myriad issues that remain, and work with the government to address these issues, in close consultation with independent groups.

Human Rights Watch says that the World Bank must ensure community participation in identifying and shaping development priorities, including by addressing ongoing restrictions affecting civil society and the media and taking all necessary steps to ensure that people affected by WBG projects have the opportunity to participate in the development of such projects.

They also highlighted the need to address ongoing concerns that present challenges to Myanmar’s development goals, including “ethnic cleansing” in Rakhine State, ethnic armed conflict in Kachin and Shan States and in tenuous ceasefire areas throughout ethnic areas, local concerns about military abuses in ethnic areas, and limited access to justice, among other issues.

The decades-long government repression of the Rohingya Muslim minority continues on a massive scale, Human Rights Watch said. Since sectarian violence flared in June 2012, an estimated 140,000 mostly Rohingya displaced people have been relocated into camps around Myanmar’s western Arakan State.

Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law effectively prevents Rohingya, many of whom have lived in the country for generations, from obtaining citizenship. This has left Rohingya stateless, facilitating human rights abuses against them and posing serious obstacles to ending the sectarian violence in Arakan State. The citizenship issue has also played a role in pushing Rohingya into increased poverty and is a barrier to realizing their social and economic rights. A draft of the long-awaited Rakhine (Arakan) Action Plan obtained by Human Rights Watch outlines plans to resettle over 130,000 displaced Rohingya into long-term settlements and stage a nationality verification process. A subsequent citizenship process will be inherently discriminatory because it is based on the 1982 law.

In its 2012 Myanmar strategy, the World Bank dismissed this entrenched discrimination as “localized instances of communal violence … that indicate the need to address continuing societal fault lines.” The attacks on the Rohingya, which amounted to crimes against humanity in a campaign of ethnic cleansing, and the impact on their social and economic rights have heightened since then, but the bank has remained silent.

Since 2012 there has also been a serious rise in anti-Muslim violence and incitement throughout Myanmar. Attacks took place in a number of towns in central Myanmar in 2013 and in Mandalay in June 2014.

“World Bank Group President Jim Kim has highlighted the cost of discrimination not only on society, but on the economy,” Evans said. “Kim should emphasize these costs with Burma’s government and urge them to dismantle entrenched discrimination and take the necessary measures to end the violence against the Rohingya and other Muslim communities.”

The World Bank Group should also do more to ensure that local communities can participate in identifying and shaping development priorities, Human Rights Watch said. The bank should publish country documents and project documents in relevant ethnic languages in addition to Burmese and English; consult with local people who will be directly affected by proposed projects; and ensure that all consultations are accessible for all marginalized groups. It should also address ongoing governmental restrictions on independent groups and the media, both in its diagnostic effort and its high-level dialogue with the government, emphasizing the importance of participation and social accountability for development.

Additionally, the need to continue to enhance fiscal transparency and accountability, eliminate off-budget expenditures, recover past off-budget expenditures, and undertake comprehensive anti-corruption efforts are critical, the organization says. They also stressed the importance of reforming labor and land laws to advance Myanmar’s development goals.

The World Bank Group should assess and address the possible adverse impacts on human rights in all of its projects in Myanmar, particularly discrimination against minorities, land rights violations, and labor rights violations. In light of the high-risk environment, the International Finance Corporation, the bank’s private-sector lending arm, should require businesses to undertake human rights due diligence. This would involve taking the necessary measures to identify potential human rights problems, mitigate them, and provide an appropriate remedy for any abuses that occur despite the preventive steps taken.

All institutions of the World Bank Group should examine the rights records of government and private sector partners to ensure that they are not implicated in rights abuses or corruption, Human Rights Watch said. And all should rigorously monitor and supervise implementation of projects they fund to ensure that human rights are respected throughout.

“The World Bank has an important role to play in advancing access to education, health, and electricity in Burma,” Evans said. “But for it to really advance development, it needs to have its eyes wide open to Burma’s ongoing rights problems and actively work to address them.”

Human Rights Watch provided input into the World Bank Group’s (WBG) future engagement with Myanmar as part of the consultation process on the Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) and the Country Partnership Framework (CPF). The organization also attended the in-person consultation in Washington, DC.

The WBG will need to seriously address the issues set out above for it to have a meaningful dialogue with the Myanmar government on challenges to development and a partnership for addressing those challenges, Human Rights Watch said. The effort will take energy and commitment, but Human Rights Watch believes it will lead to more improved development results over time.

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Police Fail To Protect Women and Girls In Hong Kong Protests

Demonstrators gather in front of a government building in Hong Kong, Sept. 29, 2014. RFA photo.

Demonstrators gather in front of a government building in Hong Kong, Sept. 29, 2014. RFA photo.

Hong Kong’s police failed in their duty to protect hundreds of peaceful pro-democracy protesters from attacks by counter demonstrators on Friday evening, Amnesty International said Friday. Women and girls were among those targeted as counter-demonstrators clashed with pro-democracy protesters in the Mongkok and Causeway Bay areas of Hong Kong Friday evening. The human rights organization says that incidents of sexual assault, harassment and intimidation have been widespread during the clash.

“The police inaction tonight is shameful. The authorities have failed in their duty to protect peaceful protesters who came under attack. There has been a heavy police presence during the past week, but their failure tonight risks fuelling an increasingly volatile situation.” said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.

Amnesty has first-hand witness accounts of women being physically attacked and threatened, while police stood by and did nothing. One woman at the demonstration in Mongkok told Amnesty International how a man grabbed her breasts while she was standing with other protesters at around four o’clock in the afternoon. She also witnessed the same man assault two other women by touching their groins.

Several police officers witnessed this but failed to take any action against the man, according to the woman. Fellow protesters then intervened to prevent the man attacking any more women.

Police reinforcements appeared only hours after the atmosphere became violent, but the police still struggled to maintain control. It is unclear whether the police simply underestimated the risk posed by counter-demonstrators, or whether they decided not to intervene.

The authorities have an obligation to protect peaceful protesters from violent attacks, Amnesty says, and demonstrators must be allowed to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.Under international standards, a peaceful assembly does not become illegal because some counter-demonstrators act in an unruly or even violent way.

Since the late afternoon, the situation has become increasingly tense, and police seemed to have had difficulty maintaining control. Observers reported that police forces were not sufficient for several hours, despite widespread reports of an urgently deteriorating situation.

The police have made some arrests, but this seems to have made no affect on the counter-demonstrators.

Counter demonstrators came out on Friday and clashed with pro-democracy protesters, who have been occupying the streets for a week.

On August 31st 2014, the Chinese government rejected open nominations for Hong Kong’s chief executive despite treaty commitments to “universal suffrage” and “a high degree of autonomy” for the territory. In reaction, university and later secondary school students boycotted classes for a week, starting on September 22nd.

As the boycott was ending on the evening of September 26th, a group of students entered Civic Square, in front of the government headquarters, without permission. The square recently was closed to the public except by permit. Police surrounded the students and arrested them, using pepper spray on protesters who blocked police from entering the square.

In response to police treatment of the students, far larger numbers of people – about 50,000 – went to the area around Civic Square on September 27th. Organizers of the pro-democracy movement “Occupy Central” then announced that they were officially launching their demonstrations and joined the protests. On September 28th, Hong Kong police unilaterally declared the protest illegal. They also cordoned off the government headquarters grounds, barred protesters from entering the area, and declared that anyone found inside would be arrested.

This decision appeared to prompt thousands more protesters to gather in the Admiralty and Wanchai areas near government headquarters, demanding that police re-open the area. The protesters broke through police blockades and walked out onto the major thoroughfares between the two groups. Protests then spread to multiple locations, blocking roads in the Admiralty, Wanchai, Central, and Mongkok areas.

Police used pepper spray again and tear gas and beat protesters with police batons on September 28th. In a news conference, the Hong Kong police chief said the tear gas and pepper spray were used to “maintain safe distance” between protesters and police and that protesters had “charged the police cordon lines in a violent manner.” He said that if protesters did not disperse there would be injuries to both police officers and demonstrators. Prior to firing tear gas and pepper spray, police raised warning flags.

In recent years people in Hong Kong have expressed not only concerns about equal rights to vote and to run as candidates, but also about their ability to shape the public policies that directly affect their lives. Some believe Hong Kong’s leadership is increasingly adopting policies that reflect China’s interests while ignoring the opinions, needs, and rights of ordinary Hong Kong people. While pro-democracy political figures who have been critical of Chinese government policies have been popular with the public, they have limited ability to shape policies because the political system constrains their role in the government.

Police use of riot gear, pepper spray, tear gas, and police batons and the detention of peaceful protesters in recent days raise serious concerns about how the Hong Kong and Chinese governments will react to ongoing demonstrations in the territory, Human Rights Watch said earlier this week.

“Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has to show the kind of tolerance for peaceful protest for which Hong Kong is known, not the intolerance that we see for it in the mainland,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “Hong Kong is known for respecting the rule of law and individual freedoms, and those rights cannot be sacrificed at times of political uncertainty.”

Human Rights Watch expressed concern about police use of force given that the protesters appeared to pose no clear or imminent threat to public safety or property, nor have there been any reported instances of protesters threatening police. Some protesters shook police barriers and threw empty plastic bottles, but the protest otherwise remained entirely peaceful. Some video footage showed disturbing uses of pepper spray.

It is also unclear whether police took all the steps necessary before using force, or whether they gave protesters adequate warning or time to disperse before releasing pepper spray or tear gas. Some protesters told Human Rights Watch that they did not see or hear any warning before being hit with tear gas or pepper spray. Others said they saw the warning flags, but that the flags appeared only seconds before the police took action. In these instances, protesters panicked and moved backward. Protesters said they feared a stampede in the area crowded with other protesters. About three dozen protesters and police officers have suffered minor injuries.

In the past, Hong Kong police have handled far larger protests without using force. The escalation of force in response to peaceful protests brings into question Hong Kong police’s independence, as well as how the Hong Kong and Chinese governments will react to future protests.

The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which spells out the terms for transfer of Hong Kong from British to Chinese control stipulates that Hong Kong shall have “a high degree of autonomy” in matters other than national defense and foreign policy, while the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s functional constitution, states that universal suffrage is the “ultimate aim” for the selection of the chief executive, the top leader, as well as members of the Legislative Council.

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On Anniversary Of China’s One Child Policy, Calls To Abolish Cruel Practice

A newborn baby girl is wedged inside a toilet pipe in Linyi City, Shandong Province on September 18, 2014. Photo: Europics.

A newborn baby girl is wedged inside a toilet pipe in Linyi City, Shandong Province on September 18, 2014. Photo: Europics.

Thursday marks the 34th anniversary of China’s one child policy. On the occasion, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers (WRWF) has released an Open Letter to President Xi Jinping condemning the coercive population control measure. The US-based rights organization says that the policy has caused incalculable suffering to hundreds of millions of Chinese women and families and that it is time for it to end. Women are frequently forced to abort up to the ninth month of pregnancy and sometimes die as a result of the procedures.

The Chinese government has claimed that the policy “prevented” more than 400 million births through this policy.  WRWF says that these births have been prevented through forced abortions, involuntary sterilizations, confiscatory “terror fines,” gendercide and infanticide, all in violation of international human rights law.

WRWF President Reggie Littlejohn stated “The mayhem caused by China’s One Child Policy continues unabated and has taken some troubling new twists, with people being driven to mental breakdown, murder and suicide, as well as an obstetrician using her position of trust in order to traffic babies. The minor modification of the Policy that took place on January 1st of this year has failed to solve these problems. The One Child Policy does not need to be modified. It needs to be abolished.”

Because forced abortion policy is systematic, Littlejohn argues that it is institutionalized violence against women.  And, due to the sheer numbers involved, she claims it is the most massive women’s rights issue in the world today.

The letter argues that the recent “reform” of the One Child Policy has done little or nothing to end coercive population control or sex selection and is in fact only a slight modification to the law.

Gender Imbalance Drives Human Trafficking, Sexual Slavery

There are about 37 million more men than women living in China. This gender imbalance drives further human rights violations such as human trafficking and sexual slavery.

In China, there are currently 117-118 boys born for every 100 girls born – the worst gender ratio in the world. This gender imbalance can only be achieved through gendercide, the sex-selective abortion of baby girls. Instituting a two-child policy will not end this practice. According to the 2009 British Medical Journal study of 2005 national census data, in nine Chinese provinces, for “second order births” where the first child is a girl, 160 boys were born for every 100 girls. In two provinces, Jiangsu and Anhui, for the second child, there were 190 boys for every hundred girls born.

In 2013, the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report discussed how China’s One Child Policy, combined with son preference, has caused a gender imbalance that is driving human trafficking and sexual slavery, not only within China but from the surrounding countries as well. The report says that China is ‘’a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.’’

There are many nations from which women and girls are trafficked into China, according to the report: “Women and children from neighboring Asian countries, including Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore, Mongolia, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as well as from Russia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas, are reportedly trafficked to China for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor.”

The report found that the Chinese government’s efforts at prevention fell below minimum standards. In fact, the Report found that many state-run institutions were complicit in the trafficking: “The Chinese government did not demonstrate significant efforts to comprehensively prohibit and punish all forms of trafficking and to prosecute traffickers. The government continued to perpetuate human trafficking in at least 320 state-run institutions, while helping victims of human trafficking in only seven.”

The State Department in its 2013 report criticized the Chinese government for failing to “address the effects its birth limitation policy had in creating a gender imbalance and fueling trafficking, particularly through bride trafficking and forced marriage.”

China has not relaxed One Child Policy despite claims

To say that China has “relaxed” or “eased” its One Child Policy under these circumstances is entirely unwarranted, Littlejohn says.

She criticizes that the minor modification of the policy that took place on January 1st  2014 and says that it: 1) will not affect a large percentage of couples in China; 2) is not subject to a timetable in which to implement it; 3) retains the dreaded “birth intervals” between children (if a woman gets pregnant before the interval has lapsed, she may be subject to forced abortion); 4) makes no promise to end the coercive enforcement of the Policy; and 5) promises to continue the One Child Policy “over a long period of time” – which could be decades.

Allowing a relatively small number of families to have a second child will not end gendercide or sexual slavery in China, says Littlejohn.  The selective abortion and abandonment of baby girls is most prevalent in the countryside, where couples already can have a second child if the first child is a girl.  Even if the most recent modification were to improve gender ratios at birth, the impact on sexual slavery would not be felt for decades to come.  Additionally, women from surrounding countries are often victims of deception, promised a better life with a good job, and then forced into sexual slavery.

Forced abortions linked to murder, suicide

In 2014, there has been a tragic rise in murder and suicide associated with the crushing “social compensation fees,” which can cost up to fourteen times a person’s annual salary, an amount the vast majority of Chinese citizens cannot afford.  If the parents are unable to pay these “terror fines,” their children will be denied “hukou,” or household registration.  Without hukou, children are ineligible for healthcare or education and become illegal aliens in their own land.

Disturbing reports related to the aftermath of forced abortions

The open letter also chronicles cruel and disturbing reports which have emerged from China over the past year, including:

  • In Linyi City, Shandong Province, a student at Linyi University gave birth to a baby girl in a University lavatory, left her baby stuffed down the toilet pipe, and fled the scene. A reported commenter on social media site Weibo stated, “I find the image of a young woman giving birth in the loo, cleaning herself up and then going back to her room to carry on studying a particularly worrying one and a sign of the sort of throwaway society that we live in nowadays.”
  • In Hunan Province, a husband demanded compensation from the Chinese government, claiming that his wife, Gong Qifeng, has suffered from schizophrenia and violent behavior since she was forced to abort at seven months in November 2011.
  • In Shandong Province, Liu Xinwen was dragged out of her home in the middle of the night by 20 officials, who kicked down her door and restrained her husband. They forced her to abort at six months pregnant.
  • Ai Guangdong, a farmer in Hebei Province, killed himself by drinking pesticide during a dispute with family planning officials over fines for his over-quota children.  Since the farmer did not have money to pay the fines, family planning officials confiscated 3.5 tons of corn, the entire savings of the family. Ai Guangdong then visited the home of the Party Chief to dispute this action.  Finally the farmer drank pesticide at the home of the Party Chief, and promptly died.
  • In Xinjiang Province, four Uyghur women were forcibly aborted, one of them at nine months.  As ethnic minorities, Uyghurs are supposedly exempt from the One Child Policy. This is not the case. While they may have more than one child, they are nevertheless subject to coercive termination of ”out-of-plan pregnancies.”
  • An obstetrician in Shaanxi province, Zhang Shuxia, was convicted of trafficking seven infants, after she had convinced their parents that the infants were seriously ill or deceased. She was given a suspended death sentence. The doctor sold boys at a premium, costing more than twice as much as girls.
  • In Guizhou Province, a farmer and father of four committed suicide because he could not afford to pay the fines to enroll his children in school. His wife stated, “He said to me before he cut his wrists, ‘What did we bring them into the world for, to be as dumb as cattle? I cannot see my children grow up uneducated.’” After his death, the authorities provided the family with a new house and money to educate the children.

The letter also criticizes the US State Department’s recent promotion of China from a ‘Tier 3’ to a ‘Tier 2 Watch List’ nation, likely based upon the technical modification of the One Child Policy, as baseless and unwarranted.  China shared its Tier 3 status with Iran, Sudan and North Korea. Tier 3 nations may be subject to sanctions, if approved by the U.S. President.

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Octogenarian Writer Arrested in China for “Picking Quarrels and Provoking Trouble”

Reporters Without Borders is demanding the immediate release of 81-year-old Chinese dissident writer Tie Liu whose home was raided on Saturday. He and his assistant Huang Jing were into custody. Tie, whose real name is Huang Zerong, was charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” At the age of 81, Tie is one of the oldest dissidents in China.

He was placed in criminal detention, which allows the authorities to hold him for at least 30 days. No reason was given for the arrest of Huang Jing, who is also Tie’s care giver and occasionally helps him type his writings. The police also seized Tie’s computers and some of his books.

An outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party, Tie Liu previously spent more than 20 years in labor camps after being labeled a “rightist” in the 1950s for rebelling against Mao Zedong and the Communist Party. However, he has continued to write essays and pamphlets criticizing the Chinese government.

Reporters Without Borders says that Tie’s arrest may be the result of an essay he published recently about the former head of the government’s propaganda department, Liu Yunshan. Tie wrote about the restrictions imposed on the media while he was running the main censorship department of the Chinese Communist Party.

“This arrest shows how far the Peking government is prepared to go to muzzle critical voices,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia desk. “We add our voice to that of the international community in condemning the arrest of Tie Liu. We urge the Chinese authorities to release both him and Huang Jing immediately.”

According to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, their lawyers tried to visit them on September 17th but were denied, with the detention center claiming the visit arrangements were not made in a timely fashion. The organization says that Tie’s detention is likely a reprisal for an online essay in which he made critical remarks about ties to corruption of Politburo Standing Committee Member Liu Yunshan, the head of the propaganda department.

According to his wife and his lawyer, Tie believed he was unlikely to be arrested again given his age. However, his family reported that he recently received threats and warnings, such as the poisoning of his dog the day before he was arrested.

The charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” is used regularly by the Chinese authorities to detain political dissidents. At least 30 journalists and 72 netizens are currently in prison in the country.

China is ranked 175th of 180 countries in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

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Civil Society Organizations Slam Arbitrary Detention of Human Rights Researchers in Cambodia

Villagers witness the destruction of their homes in 2009. Photo by ADHOC.

Villagers witness the destruction of their homes in 2009. Photo by ADHOC.

Civil Society Organizations in Cambodia are slamming the decision by Cambodian authorities to detain two employees of a non-profit organization without just cause. On Tuesday, September 9th, Cambodian authorities detained Equitable Cambodia (EC) employees Meg Fukuzawa and Lida Sok who were conducting field research on the human rights impacts of forced evictions resulting from the development of industrial sugarcane plantations.

Thirteen civil society organization in Cambodia signed a letter condemning the continued intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders in Cambodia and called upon the competent authorities to investigate those responsible for ordering the illegal and unjust detention of Meg Fukuzawa and Lida Sok. Both are employees of the NGO Equitable Cambodia.

Ms. Fuzuzawa is a research consultant with dual citizenship in the United States and Japan and Mr. Sok is a Cambodian research officer. They had been in Oddar Meanchey province since last Monday to conduct field research on the human rights impacts of forced evictions resulting from the development of industrial sugarcane plantations.

The plantations are owned by the Mitr Phol Group, one of Coca-Cola’s top three global suppliers. Ms. Fukuzawa and Mr. Sok were working to collect research data to provide to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, which is investigating Mitr Phol’s activities in Cambodia.

According to the civil society organizations which includes Equalitable Cambodia, at around 4:30 p.m., four police vehicles attended Bos village where Ms. Fukuzawa and Mr. Sok had been conducting their research. In 2008, the rice fields of approximately 100 families in Bos village were seized to make way for sugarcane plantations.

Equitable Cambodia is condemning the detention and says that no one was was involved in illegal activities. The organization also says that in this case, there was no reasonable basis to detain either of their employees and that they were ”deprived of liberty without good reason.”

During the land grab in 2008, residents were subject to intimidation campaigns with the aim to coerce them into accepting resettlement terms set by the authorities in the interest of the private companies. Civil society representatives that work closely with the affected communities highlight patterns of collusion between the concessionaires, provincial authorities and local military officers.

According to reports by villagers, the secretary general for the provincial government and the head of the fifth “special conflict resolution committee,” Mr. Vat Paranin, employed thinly veiled threats to force villagers into accepting the “compensation offers”proposed by the authorities on behalf of the concessionaires. Under the compensation agreements, the villagers would be obliged to accept land plots assigned to them by the authorities “or lose everything.”

If the villagers rejected, they would also become subject to criminal investigations, according to the authorities. Villagers report that compensation offers consisted, among others, in land that was much smaller than the plots taken away from them, or land that was already owned by third parties.

When officers approached the researchers, they immediately asked Ms. Fukuzawa and Mr. Sok to accompany them to the Oddar Meanchey provincial police station. The officers’ requests were denied. By then, it was dark and the EC staff were concerned about traveling by motorcycle at night. An hour later, Long Sokun, the Deputy Police Chief of Oddar Meanchey, arrived at the village and asked to see Ms. Fukuzawa’s immigration documents. Ms. Fukuzawa did not have her passport in her immediate possession.

At approximately 8:30 p.m., a police vehicle attended Bos village and Ms. Fukuzawa and Mr. Sok were transported under duress to the provincial police station. The officers did not inform them of the reason for their detention, nor was an arrest warrant produced.

The two were held in police custody and interrogated about their research activities for over three hours, after which Mr. Sok was released from police custody. However, he chose to remain with his colleague to act as her translator and to provide support while she remained in custody.

At the police station, Ms. Fukuzawa attempted to show both Mr. Long Sokun and his assistant scanned copies of her Japanese and American passports, which were sent to Mr. Sok’s telephone. On both occasions, she was told that it was not necessary to provide such documents.

Ms. Fukuzawa was held in police custody overnight and transported to the Department of Immigration in Phnom Penh on the morning of September 10th 2014. After an interview was conducted with the Director of the Department of Immigration, Ms. Fukuzawa was released from police custody at 3:30 p.m.

Police indicated to the researchers that they were asked to leave the village for their own safety because it was a remote area. Neither Ms. Fukuzawa nor Mr. Sok were concerned about their safety while undertaking their research at the village. The community members had treated the visitors with respect and hospitality. It was only after police arrived and detained them against their will that Ms. Fukuzawa and Mr. Sok felt their safety was at risk.

Ultimately, the authorities claimed that Ms. Fukuzawa was detained because she could not produce her original passport when questioned by the police in Oddar Meanchey. No charges were laid nor fines imposed.

Equitable Cambodia condemns the arbitrary detention of its employees, both in Oddar Meanchey and Phnom Penh. The absence of a passport upon request by police does not result in criminal sanctions. Moreover, neither individual was engaging in illegal activities. As such, there were no credible grounds to justify Ms. Fukuzawa and Mr. Sok’s detention in police custody, the former lasting nearly 24 hours.

Civil society groups are calling for an investigation into the arbitrary detention of the researchers. They that without warrant or reasonable grounds to seek detention, police and immigration officers violated Ms. Fukuzawa and Mr. Sok’s constitutional right to not be arbitrarily detained and deprived them of their liberty without just cause. Article 38 of Cambodia’s constitution states that the prosecution, arrest, police custody or detention of any person shall not be done, except in accordance with the law.

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Another Chinese Activist Sentenced During Crackdown

Zhang Lin (L) and his daughter Zhang Anni (R) in an undated photo. Photo courtesy the Zhang family.

Zhang Lin (L) and his daughter Zhang Anni (R) in an undated photo. Photo courtesy the Zhang family.

Chinese activist Zhang Lin is now the 14th person known to be imprisoned in the crackdown on peaceful assembly, association and expression, which began in earnest in March 2013. Zhang’s three-and-a-half-year prison sentence was announced by the Bengshan District People’s Court in Bengbu City on September 5th. His case stems from protests that he helped organize in support of his daughter, who was blocked from attending an elementary school in Hefei last spring due to his activism.

Zhang, 51, is a veteran of the 1989 pro-democracy movement in Anhui and was jailed several times for his political activities since the banning of the opposition China Democracy Party (CDP) in 1998.

Zhang was detained in July 2013 and put on trial last December on a charge of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place.” Zhang pleaded not guilty at his trial last December, telling the court his own actions had been “reasonable and lawful”.

Prison sentences handed down to detained activists in the crackdown range from eight months to six-and-a-half years, with three individuals – Liu Ping, Wei Zhongping, and Dong Rubin — given the harshest sentences. The trial of two other activists swept up in the crackdown, Guo Feixiong and Sun Desh, is set to open on Friday at the Tianhe District People’s Court in Guangzhou. Both have been detained since August 2013.

Authorities seized Zhang in apparent retaliation for protests in support of his ten-year-old daughter, Anni Zhang, who was blocked by authorities from attending school in Hefei City. On February 27th 2013, Anni was removed from Hefei Hupo Elementary School and detained before she and her father were put under house arrest. In April 2013, Zhang Lin along with several activists and lawyers tried to help Anni return to her school by staging rallies and hunger strikes in front of government buildings, but with no success.

Anni has been dubbed “China’s youngest prisoner of conscience” after she was taken out of school and detained for several hours in February 2013, denied food water and a blanket, and later prevented from attending school and held under house arrest, according to rights groups.

Zhang’s daughter Anni has been living in the U.S. since September 2013, along with her half-sister. The girls have appealed to US President Obama for the to intervene on their father’s behalf.

Zhang supported and participated in the 1989 pro-democracy movement and was sentenced to two years in prison. After his release, he spent a total of six years in Re-education through Labor camps, and another four years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” for his continued activism on labor rights, democracy, and justice.

Zhang was one of the initial signatories of Charter 08, a manifesto on human rights and democracy in China. His autobiography, A Pathetique Soul, recounts his journey as an activist and received widespread acclaim, including from the Chinese Independent PEN Center.

According to his daughters, Zhang has suffered numerous illnesses from past detentions and his health is in decline.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders recently added Zhang to a watch list of Chinese detainees in urgent need of medical attention, as he is suffering from a condition in his vertebrae, a dental disease, and an eye infection that is threatening his vision.

Depriving medical treatment to individuals in custody is a life-threatening form of torture. Authorities’ failure or refusal to provide adequate medical care for detainees violates Chinese law and, among other international standards, the Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners.

In the Concluding Observations from its review of China in May 2014, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed its concern about reports that detained Chinese activists and lawyers have been deprived of medical care as a form of government reprisal. Recognizing this serious issue, the Committee urged China to guarantee these individuals “have adequate access to health care in all circumstances.”

The deprivation of medical care to further persecute detainees and prisoners of conscience reflects a tacit central government policy and a systematic pattern in practice, says Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

This form of abuse has led to the death of activists, as seen most recently in the tragic case of Cao Shunli. Ms. Cao was managing health conditions at the time she was seized in September 2013, but she was not allowed to take medication that she had brought into detention. After not receiving adequate medical treatment, Cao eventually died in March 2014 from complications of illnesses that worsened or came about during over five months in custody.

Others who have died after not being provided medical care in custody include Chen Xiaomin, Duan Huimin, and Goshul Lobsang.

Since March 2013, Chinese police have taken into custody dozens of activists, lawyers and other citizens in a crackdown meant to suppress peaceful assembly, association, and expression around the country. The strident response by authorities has partially been triggered by advocacy campaigns waged against official corruption and other politically sensitive issues.

As of September 9th 2014, 70 individuals who have allegedly engaged in such activism are known to have been criminally detained or disappeared in Beijing and the provinces of Jiangxi, Hubei, Jiangsu, Guangdong, Anhui, Hunan, Yunnan and Xinjiang. Among those detained on criminal charges, 44 are known to have been formally arrested, and 33 are known to have been indicted and/or tried . Additionally, 34 are known to have been released on “bail pending further investigation.” To date, 14 individuals have been issued prison sentences in retaliation for their activism.

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Anger Over Dalai Lama’s Visa Denial

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Photo courtesy

His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Photo courtesy

South Africa refused the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, a visa to visit Cape Town. The Dalai Lama was invited to attend the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates along with his fellow Nobel Laureates. South Africa has previously refused the Dalai Lama a visa, and London-based Free Tibet says that this repeated refusal is closely linked to South Africa’s relationship with their biggest trading partner, China.

South Africa’s Foreign Ministry insists the decision is independent.

Cape Town’s mayor says she is appalled by the decision. “Based on further discussions with the Dalai Lama’s representatives both in South Africa and Dharamsala, it has now become clear that the officials from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) contacted the Dalai Lama’s office to inform them that the South Africa government would not grant him a visa to attend the summit, due to sensitivities related to the Chinese government,” Patricia de Lille, the Executive Mayor of Cape Town, said in a statement on Friday.

“The actions of DIRCO are absolutely appalling, and an affront to a key theme of the summit: celebrating 20 years of South Africa’s constitutional democracy and the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela. It is indeed a dark day for South Africa when the ideals for which Nelson Mandela and so many others fought are sold to the highest bidder,’’ she added.

Patricia de Lille, the Executive Mayor of Cape Town. Photo courtesy City of Cape Town.

Patricia de Lille, the Executive Mayor of Cape Town. Photo courtesy City of Cape Town.

Mayor de Lille said that the Mandela, Luthuli, De Klerk and Tutu Foundations will be writing to South African President Zuma to appeal to him to intervene and ensure that a visa is granted so that the Dalai Lama can attend the summit.

Past Nobel Peace Laureates, including former heads of State, who have already signed the letter of appeal to President Zuma include President Lech Walesa, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Muhammad Yunus, Jody Williams, Betty Williams, Tawakkul Karman, Leimah Gbowee and Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo.

Ms. de Lille also warned the government that the attending Nobel Laureates may end up protesting against the country’s decision.

South Africa welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping in March 2013.  China is South Africa’s largest export market.

The Dalai Lama lives in exile in India. In 2011, he resigned from political duties. The same year, China applied pressure on the South African government to deny the former leader entry to celebrate Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s birthday. The Dalai Lama was invited by a number of universities and organizations including Stellenbosch University, the Tutu Centre and the Mahatma Gandhi Trust to give public talks and deliver Bishop Tutu’s 80th Birth Anniversary Inaugural. A South African court ruled that officials had “unreasonably delayed” a decision on granting a visa to His Holiness the Dalai Lama that year.

Mr. Tutu sharply criticized his government for cow towing to China and not supporting Tibetans, who is said are “viciously oppressed by the Chinese.” He said at the time that the decision “disgraceful” and worse than the apartheid regime.

The South African government also kept the Dalai Lama from attending a Nobel laureates’ peace conference in 2009, saying it would detract attention from the 2010 soccer World Cup that was hosted here.

Earlier this year, Norway’s government refused to meet the Dalai Lama during his visit to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize. The country’s reaction is similar to other countries who fear China’s reprisal if they accommodate the Dalai Lama or talk about China’s human rights record. At the time, the Chinese government has cautioned all government representatives from having any official meetings with the Tibetan Buddhist leader. Norway was blacklisted by China in 2010 when Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

Tibet today is one of the most repressed societies in the world. According to Free Tibet, Tibetans in Tibet are denied the right to speak freely, to celebrate their national identity and culture and to pursue their religion without state interference and control. They are even forbidden to carry or display images of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama and their national flag. Despite this repression and a lifetime of occupation, Tibetans continue to oppose China’s rule and seek freedom to exercise their right to self-determination as a people.

In struggling peacefully for their human and civil rights, Tibetans pay a heavy price. China uses lethal force, torture, arbitrary detention, punitive sentencing, collective punishments and surveillance in an attempt to control the Tibetan population.

The organization says further that China’s repression generates additional resistance, leading to a constant cycle of protest and human rights abuses.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited South Africa in 1996, 1999 and 2004. He met with the late South African President Nelson Mandela in 1996 and 2004.

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Charges Dropped Against 50 Journalists in Myanmar

On August 26th 2014, Myanmar authorities dropped charges against fifty journalists previously accused of peaceful protest arising from a gathering on July 12th 2014. Police decided to stop the investigation and refused to bring the case to court. However, the journalists who were charged have expressed concern that this announcement does not completely put them out of risk.

The journalists say that the police did not send them any official letters concerning their charges. They also did not receive any written notifications that may confirm the dismissal of the case. This fact raises serious concerns that the police can still use the case for future harassment and intimidation of the journalists, says human rights organization Front Line Defenders.

The fifty journalists had previously been identified, questioned and charged with violation of Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Processions Act of 2012.

Front Line Defenders urges the authority to issue an official order confirming the disposal of the case and also to refrain from similar harassment of human rights defenders and journalists.

The 50 protested against the sentencing on July 10th 2014 in Pakokku Township Court of four journalists and the CEO of the Unity Weekly Journal. The five Unity Weekly journalists were sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment with hard labor under the Official Secrets Act 1923 for “disclosing state secrets.” Those accusations related to the publication of a report challenging the transparency of government policy, specifically in relation to a military facility allegedly being used to manufacture chemical weapons.

Since the transition from military rule to a civilian government in early 2011, Myanmar has been commended by many for its steps towards a free press; a pre-publishing censorship board was abolished in August 2012, and many media workers exiled for decades have begun their cautious return to the country.

Then, Myanmar’s Interim Press Council, a semi-independent body, was established in September 2012. Independent journalists are also included in this council. This council is at present drafting a new ‘’Print Media Law and Broadcast Media Law.’’

Sayeed Ahmed, Protection Coordinator at Front Line, says that ‘’the establishment of the press council was welcomed and was seen as a positive move from a regime of total censorship in Myanmar. However, ahead of next year’s presidential election,President Thein Sein and the military in the background seem nervous with the increased press freedom.’’

It is believed that the decision to drop the charges has come as a result of a meeting between President Thein Sein and the Information Ministry and Interim Press Council in mid-August.

On July 10th, the verdict against four journalists and the owner of Unity
Journal was handed down; they were each sentenced to ten years in prison with
labor for publishing an investigative report in January 2014 alleging that a military facility was used for the production of chemical weapons. The journal was defunct anyway. Yet, this harsh punishment was seen by other journalists as a threat to their freedom. So they came out in huge protest. On July 12th, they were protesting outside the Myanmar
Peace Centre (MPC), where the President was paying a visit.

The police then filed a case against 50 unnamed journalists, basically to leave it open to arrest any leading journalist they want. The press council then had a series of meetings with the authority and finally the announcement came from the police.

Deputy Station Officer Maung Maung Oo, who levied the charges, said “We haven’t brought the case to court, and we have stopped the police investigation. But as we all have to live under the law, anyone who breaks the law again will be charged.”

Shwe Hmon, one of the 50 journalists who were charged, said “They didn’t send us official letters about the charges. Now they have dismissed the case without informing us. We, the media, can’t understand the laws and systems of power in our country.”

Since the charge was with the police station and it did not reach the court and has since been dismissed by the court, there is the chance to revive the charge any time by the police.

Front Line recommends that Myanmar repeal Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly act which criminalizes assembly without prior permission. The organization also encourages the government to refrain from bringing charges against unnamed people in mass.

Specifically regarding this case, they say that the police should close the case in their record and following the procedures they follow normally to do so, and also to make that evidence available to media and public. So far the notice of dropping the charges is just an informal announcement.

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