A group of nine poets and artists from Songzhuang, an artist community in Beijing, were detained between 1 and 8 October for organizing an event where they had planned to read poetry and display posters in support of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Poet Wang Zang, also from Songzhuang, has also been criminally detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” after he posted a photograph online of himself holding an umbrella, which has become the symbol of the Hong Kong protests. Wang Zang’s wife and their one-year old daughter were detained and not given any food or water for approximately nine hours at a police station in Beijing on 8 October when they tried to obtain information about his situation.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PRESS RELEASE
15 October 2014

Hong Kong: Police officers must face justice for attack on protester

Hong Kong police officers involved in the beating and kicking of a detained pro-democracy protester on Wednesday must face justice, Amnesty International said.

Local TV news footage shows social worker Ken Tsang Kin Chiu being taken away by six police officers in the early hours of Wednesday, his hands tied behind his back. The police officers then appear to carry Tsang around a corner and put him on the ground. The publicly available video shows that some officers proceed repeatedly to kick and punch Tsang, who is seen curled-up in a ball, while other police officers stood by.

Amnesty International spoke to a lawyer assisting Tsang who confirmed the details of the attack, and that the victim was taken by police to a local hospital to receive medical treatment. Police have since said they will conduct an investigation into the incident.

“This appears to be a vicious attack against a detained man who posed no threat to the police. Any investigation into this incident must be carried out promptly and all individuals involved in unlawful acts must be prosecuted,” said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.

“It is stomach-churning to think there are Hong Kong police officers that feel they are above the law.”

According to the lawyer, Tsang was initially arrested for assaulting a police officer. The charges against Tsang were then changed to unlawful assembly and obstructing police officers from carrying out their duties. He remains in police custody and will be interviewed after receiving medical treatment.

The incident occurred at around 3am on Wednesday morning as police attempted to remove pro-democracy protesters who had occupied a road just off the main protest site in downtown Hong Kong. Police used pepper-spray against scores of protesters. According to police 45 people were arrested.

“All those being held solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Mabel Au.

“Amnesty International urges the Hong Kong police to show restraint and avoid any unlawful use of force.”

Police have stepped-up operations this week to remove barricades set up by pro-democracy protesters in an effort to reduce the areas occupied by demonstrators.

Amnesty International
Urgent Action
UA 255/14
9 October 2014

DETAINED FOR SUPPORTING HONG KONG PROTESTS

At least 26 people, including several poets and artists, have been detained in Beijing for showing support for the pro­-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Thirteen people are known to have been accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, and could face up to five years in prison if formally charged.

A group of nine poets and artists from Songzhuang, an artist community in Beijing, were detained between 1 and 8 October for organizing an event where they had planned to read poetry and display posters in support of the pro­democracy protests in Hong Kong. Poet Wang Zang, also from Songzhuang, has also been criminally detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” after he posted a photograph online of himself holding an umbrella, which has become the symbol of the Hong Kong protests. Wang Zang’s wife and their one-­year-old daughter were detained and not given any food or water for approximately nine hours at a police station in Beijing on 8 October when they tried to obtain information about his situation.

Another group of 11 activists are being criminally detained in Beijing on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. They were detained on 30 September and 1 October after photographs were circulated on social media of them having dinner and holding placards in support of the Hong Kong protests.

Several people have also been detained in other parts of mainland China, including in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing and Jiangsu, for activities such as shaving their heads in solidarity with the demonstrators, or planning to travel to Hong Kong to join the protests. This is part of a wider attempt by the Chinese authorities to silence any discussion or displays of support for the events in Hong Kong. The popular photo­-sharing platform Instagram has been blocked. Government censors have attempted to remove all positive mentions of the pro­democracy protests online, while forcing newspapers and TV stations to only use the state­-sponsored narrative of the protests.

Please write immediately in Chinese, English or your own language:

  • Urge the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those detained for peacefully showing support for the pro­democracy protests in Hong Kong (please include the names of those detained in Beijing which can be found overleaf);
  • Calling on the authorities to ensure all those detained have regular access to their lawyers, family, and any medical treatment they require.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 7 NOVEMBER 2014 TO:

Director of Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau
Fu Zhenghua Juzhang
Beijingshi Gong’anju
9 Dongdajie, Qianmen
Dongchengqu
Beijingshi 100740
People’s Republic of China
Fax: + 86 10 65242927
Salutation: Dear Director

Vice­ Premier
Wang Yang
The State Council General Office
2 Fuyoujie, Xichengqu
Beijingshi 100017
People’s Republic of China
Email: english@mail.gov.cn
Salutation: Your Excellency

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Thousands of people have been occupying parts of downtown Hong Kong since 26 September to demand further electoral reform. The protests grew in size after the unlawful use of tear gas and pepper spray by the police against peaceful protestors on the first night of the demonstrations. Since then, the police have taken a less confrontational approach.

On 3 and 4 October, protesters faced attacks by counter-­demonstrators. Women and girls were among those targeted, including incidents of sexual assault, harassment and intimidation. Amnesty International has the first­hand witness account of a woman being physically attacked and threatened, and has received credible information from women’s organizations, media reports, publicly available videos and other sources about further assaults and abuse happening while police stood by and did nothing. Protesters remain on the streets but in dwindling numbers.

The charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” (Article 293 of Criminal Law) carries a maximum of five years imprisonment if the person commits one of the acts of creating disturbances, thus disrupting public order such as forcibly taking or demanding, damaging, destroying or occupying public or private property with serious circumstances; or creating disturbances in a public place, thus causing serious disorder in such place etc. If the person gathers others and commits the behaviours repeatedly that seriously undermine public order, he or she will receive a maximum of ten years imprisonment but no less than five years imprisonment.

Amnesty International
Press release
3 October 2014

Hong Kong: Women and girls attacked as police fail to protect peaceful protesters

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.

Women and girls were among those targeted, including incidents of sexual assault, harassment and intimidation, as counter-demonstrators clashed with pro-democracy protesters in the Mongkok and Causeway Bay areas of Hong Kong on Friday evening.

“The police inaction tonight is shameful. The authorities have failed in their duty to protect peaceful protesters who came under attack,” said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.

“There has been a heavy police presence during the past week, but their failure tonight risks fuelling an increasingly volatile situation.”

Amnesty International 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 4pm. 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. 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. 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.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PRESS RELEASE

23 September 2014

China: Deplorable life sentence for Uighur academic

The life sentence handed down by a Chinese court to prominent Uighur academic Ilham Tohti on charges of “separatism” is an affront to justice, Amnesty International said.

“This shameful judgement has no basis in reality. Ilham Tohti worked to peacefully build bridges between ethnic communities and for that he has been punished through politically motivated charges,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

“Tohti is a prisoner of conscience and the Chinese authorities must immediately and unconditionally release him.”

Through his work as an academic and writer, Tohti has tried to build mutual understanding between Uighurs and Han Chinese in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), amid rising ethnic tensions in the region. He founded the website Uighur Online and is an outspoken critic of Beijing’s policies in the XUAR.

Police arrested Tohti, along with seven Uighur students, in January this year. He has been tortured in detention, was denied food for 10 days and shackled for more than 20 days.

His trial has been marked by a series of legal shortcomings. His legal team were refused access to evidence and they were unable to meet Tohti for six months. One of Tohti’s lawyers was also forced to quit the case following political pressure.

The seven Uighur students face a similar charge of “separatism”, although it is unclear when their trials will take place or whether they have been allowed legal representation.

“These criminal charges make a mockery of President Xi’s calls for a greater understanding and solidarity between the Uighur and Han communities. Instead of targeting peaceful activists like Tohti the Chinese authorities must end the systemic discrimination and suppression Uighurs face,” said William Nee.

“It is appalling that seven young Uighurs are caught up in the authorities’ desire to persecute Tohti. It is emblematic of the Chinese authorities prioritization of ‘stability above all else’ above justice and the rule of law.”

Background

Uighurs face widespread discrimination in employment, education, housing, and curtailed religious freedom as well as political marginalization.

The authorities have ratcheted up restrictions on public displays of Islam; long beards have been banned, as have veils, hijabs, and T-shirts with the Islamic crescent moon and star.

During the month of Ramadan, several government websites in the XUAR put students under extreme pressure by banning fasting and insisting that all Communist Party members and government employees adhere to atheism.

Tohti’s sentencing comes after a wave of violent attacks and suppression of protests in the region. One of the most violent incidents occurred on 28 July, with state media reporting 37 civilians were killed when a ‘knife wielding mob’ stormed government offices in the town of Shache. Security forces are reported to have shot dead 59 attackers during the incident.

Uighur groups dispute this account, saying as many as 2,000 Uighurs were killed when police opened fire on hundreds of people protesting against severe restrictions placed on Muslims during Ramadan.

In May, the authorities launched an anti-terrorism “strike hard” campaign that has seen mass arrests and hundreds of people, mostly Uighurs, rounded up and imprisoned after unfair trials.

This followed a spate of violent attacks in which mostly Han-Chinese were killed. Three died and 79 were injured in a bomb and knife attack at a train station in Urumqi – the region’s capital – on 1 May; followed by bombs being hurled out of cars in the town’s busy market a few weeks later, killing 39 and injuring 94 passers-by.

Amnesty International posted the following story in regards to the arrest of over 500 protesters in Hong Kong last week:

According to organizers, over 510,000 people took part in the 1 July protest march marking the 17th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China.

The previous day, student groups – the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism – who are both calling for “genuine universal suffrage” invited participants to join a sit-in after the march on Chater Road and in front of the Chief Executive Office in Central, Hong Kong’s business district. The protesters publicly announced both assemblies would end at 8 a.m. However, the police started to forcibly remove protesters from Chater Road at approximately 3 a.m.

In the early morning of 2 July, police arrested 511 people, mostly students, who took part in the sit-in at Chater Road. At 8am, the remaining approximately 50 protesters, left according to plan. Some of the 511 detained have complained that they were not provided with food and water and were not given access to legal representation for several hours during detention at the Hong Kong Police College in Wong Chuk Hang.

While the 511 have now all been released, twenty-five protesters who took part in the sit-in, most of them students, remain under investigation for “illegal assembly”, “organizing and assisting in an illegal assembly” and “obstruction in a public place”. These twenty-five were released on bail on 2 July but they are required to report to the police in late July and early August. They are at risk of having formal charges brought against them.

In the morning of 4 July, five members of Civil Human Rights Front, who organized the 1 July march were also arrested for investigation of delays during the march, mainly due to a slow-moving lead vehicle. It is uncertain whether the police will arrest more people for taking part in the protests.

Please sign a petition to Mr. Rimsky Yuen, SC, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Justice to demand the Hong Kong government to stop pursuing the charges against the peaceful protesters.

Amnesty International
28 May 2014

China: Persecution of Tiananmen activists exposes President Xi’s reform lies

The widespread persecution of activists in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown exposes the lie behind President Xi Jinping’s claims to be delivering greater openness and reform, said Amnesty International.

Dozens of activists have been detained, placed under house arrest or questioned by police in recent weeks for attempting to commemorate the hundreds, if not thousands, of unarmed protesters and civilians who were killed or injured in the crackdown.

“The 25th Tiananmen anniversary was a critical test for President Xi’s claims to be delivering greater openness. But Xi has opted for repression over reform,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, who is in Hong Kong this week to pay his respects to the victims of 4 June.

“The response by the Chinese authorities to the 25th anniversary has been harsher than in previous years, as they persist with trying to wipe the events of 4 June from memory.”

Those detained in recent weeks include human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and prominent journalist Gao Yu. Others including Ding Zilin, spokesperson for the Tiananmen Mothers, have been placed under house arrest.

For 25 years, relatives of the victims have fought for justice at great personal cost. Most of the Tiananmen Mothers are now elderly, and a number of the original members of the group – both mothers and fathers – have passed away.

“China’s leaders must stop playing politics with history and instead deliver justice for the victims. These devastated families deserve a full and open account from their government,” said Salil Shetty.

“It’s not too late for Xi to change tack and we urge him to launch an open and independent investigation into the violent crackdown of 1989.”

Pervasive repression

Twenty-five years on from the bloodshed, the government continues to use any means necessary to prevent Chinese citizens from expressing opinions at odds with government rhetoric. It jails activists on trumped-up charges, and uses violence against those who seek to protect human rights within the current legal system.

2014 has seen a wider clampdown against citizens calling for reform – most notably those associated with the New Citizens Movement. Several leading activists associated with the network – whose calls for greater transparency and an end to corruption echo many of the calls made by the pro-democracy protests in 1989 – have received long prison sentences.

“This blatant disregard for the rule of law shows the government to be badly out of touch with the growing calls from Chinese citizens to participate in political life,” said Salil Shetty.

“If the leadership wants to demonstrate it is serious about living up to its promises to deepen reform, it must loosen its suffocating grip on freedom of speech and assembly.”

Amnesty International reiterates its calls on the Chinese government to:

  • Publicly acknowledge the human rights violations which occurred in the Tiananmen crackdown of 1989;
  • Launch an open and independent inquiry and hold those responsible for human rights violations accountable;
  • Provide compensation to victims of the 1989 crackdown and their families;
  • Cease harassment and prosecution of those commemorating or speaking out about the 1989 Tiananmen protests and those more generally exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
PRESS RELEASE
8 May 2014

China: Detention of journalist for leaking state secrets a ‘smokescreen’

The Chinese authorities are using trumped-up charges to target a prominent journalist who has been detained for disclosing state secrets, said Amnesty International.

Gao Yu, 70, is accused of sharing a ‘secret’ document with editors of a foreign website in August last year, Chinese state media reported on Thursday.

“Gao is the latest victim of China’s vaguely worded and arbitrary state secret laws which the authorities repeatedly use as a smokescreen to target activists,” said Anu Kultalahti, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

Gao is an outspoken campaigner for victims of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. The past week has seen several prominent activists arrested ahead of the 25th anniversary of the crackdown on 4 June.

“The timing of Gao’s detention is highly dubious and raises serious questions as to the authorities’ true motives,” said Kultalahti.

Gao’s friends became concerned for her whereabouts when she failed to turn up to an event to commemorate the Tiananmen crackdown. State media have since confirmed that she was detained on 24 April.

According to media reports, Gao is accused of sharing a Communist Party ideological paper known as Document No. 9. Freedom of the press and freedom of thought all come under severe attack in the paper.

“The information contained in Document No. 9 in no way merits being classified as a state secret. If Gao is being held for sharing this document she must be immediately released,” said Kultalahti.

Son missing

On Thursday morning, China’s state television, CCTV, broadcast a confession from Gao, with her face blurred out.

Her son, Zhao Meng, has not been heard from since 24 April and may be being held as leverage against his mother.

“The TV confession proves nothing, and is likely to have been made under duress. Such a confession negates any chance of a fair trial,” said Kultalahti.

China’s vaguely worded state secret laws should be revised to include a clear and concise definition of state secrets, to ensure that punishment is only levied for actual harm to a legitimate national security interest and to eliminate retroactive classification of information. These laws have too often been used to punish activists for the legitimate exercise of their rights.

About me & Disclaimer

I am a volunteer for Amnesty International USA. The opinion expressed on this blog does not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of AIUSA, AI headquarter in UK, or any other organization on planet earth.

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