Categoria: Press release

China Nobel Peace Laureate’s Widow ‘Potential Suicide Risk’: Friend

Liu Xiaobo’s widow Liu Xia holds his photo as an unidentified man (R) carries an urn holding his ashes.

Liu Xia, widow of late Nobel peace laureate and political prisoner Liu Xiaobo, is at risk of a potential attempt on her own life, a close friend and fellow activist has said.

Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia said the accumulated stress of being under continual house arrest and surveillance by state security police has left Liu in a state of long-term depression.

Recent health problems may have exacerbated her low mood, Hu said.

“During the past few months, she has had surgery to remove uterine fibroids,” he said. “I’m sure you can imagine the effect of long-term incarceration at home for more than two years, plus the loss of both parents and a loving husband must have had on her.”

“If Liu Xia were to seek to end this state of affairs through suicide, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.”

Hu said he previously limited opportunity to visit or talk with Liu while Liu Xiaobo was still alive.

“Back then, when I would go to see her, all her words were words of despair and emotional collapse,” he said. “She has been dependent on medication for a long time now; that is the only way they can stabilize her mood.”

Hu said the best solution for Liu, who has never been charged with any crime, would be for her to be allowed to seek medical treatment overseas.

“The only way she will be able to escape the curse she is living under is if she is able to leave the country and go to Germany or the U.S.,” Hu said. “I have been in touch with the relevant diplomats lately, and they all say they have been in talks with the state security apparatus since August, September on this very subject.”

“This is the only way out of misery left for Liu Xia now,” he said.

Emotional pain

Reports have also emerged on overseas social media accounts that Liu’s depression is “extremely severe” now.

A Chinese journalist who asked to remain anonymous told RFA on Saturday that Liu is basically confined to an apartment, where she reads books previously bought by Liu Xiaobo, alone.

“She is in the midst of huge emotional pain,” the journalist said. “When she was forced to leave Beijing [during the 19th party congress in October], Liu Xia said that she felt like she was being shoved around like a parcel.”

Earlier this month, dozens of writers and artists have called on Chinese president Xi Jinping to end all restrictions and surveillance imposed on Liu Xia, who was last seen in photographs on July 15 at the sea burial of her husband’s ashes, but has been incommunicado since then, with a security guard hanging around her Beijing home.

Rights groups say Liu Xia remains in a state of de facto incommunicado detention, cut off from the outside world and barred from making her own free decisions about where to go, or whom to associate with.

Liu Xiaobo died weeks after being diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer, and repeated requests from his family to seek medical treatment overseas were ignored.

Police have since detained a number of activists who staged memorials in Liu’s honor, and his name is still a banned search term on China’s tightly controlled internet.

Radio Free Asia,2017-11-20

China Lawyer Wang Yu’s Son ‘Depressed’ After Police Halt Overseas Study Trip

From left to right, Bao Zhuoxuan, Wang Yu, and Bao Longjun, in undated photos. (Photos courtesy of an RFA listene)

The teenaged son of prominent human rights lawyer Wang Yu is “noticeably depressed with no appetite” after Chinese police stopped him from boarding a plane to attend university in Australia, his father told RFA’s Mandarin Service on Tuesday.

Bao Zhuoxuan, Wang’s son, was stopped by customs officials in Tianjin as he was preparing to board a flight to Tokyo on Monday, held for an hour and then sent away after officials cut two corners of his passport to make the document invalid, his father Bao Longjun said on social media.

Bao Longjun told RFA in an interview that Chinese authorities, who told Zhuoxuan that he posed a potential threat to national security while abroad, were wrong to drag a minor into adults’ politics.

“The child is noticeably depressed with no appetite and couldn’t sleep at night,” Bao Longjun told RFA.

“He has passed the college entrance exam and has been admitted by Melbourne University, Australia. He wanted to go abroad to study but he was worried about this issue,” the father said.

“The child was moved to Inner Mongolia and has been under surveillance by four or five security guards. Local police told us that we need to stay in Inner Mongolia for another year,” added Bao Longjun.

Wang Yu was one of the first and most prominent of hundreds of human rights lawyers and associates swept up by Chinese authorities in a crackdown that started in July 2015.

Following a nationwide operation targeting rights lawyers, activists, their families, and employees, at least 19 of the more than 300 detained, questioned, or otherwise affected were held on suspicion of subversion with no access to a lawyer.

Wang’s son’s setback at Tianjin airport came as a translated account of her first two months of detention, from July to September 2015, was published as part of the book titled “The People’s Republic of the Disappeared: Stories From Inside China’s System for Enforced Disappearances.”

Excerpts of the book published by the website China Change describe her rough arrest by dozens of people who had broken into her house without presenting any warrant or other legal paperwork.

“I hadn’t even finished speaking before more than a dozen people were inside, pushing me onto the bed, handcuffing me with my hands behind my back. In almost the same movement, someone was forcing a black hood over my head. He had a Tianjin accent,” Wang wrote.

Since I had already been illegally detained several times in the past by Public Security or court police during certain cases—you can imagine how much risk a lawyer with legal professional ethics faces in China—I wasn’t immediately too scared,” she wrote.

“I tried to struggle, but it was impossible to make any difference as a woman against such a large number of attackers,” added Wang.

Daily mistreatment

Taken to a hidden location where she would stay for one month, Wang faced daily mistreatment at the hands of her captors.

“I was told to take off all my clothes, stand in the middle of the room for inspection, and to turn my body three times. I objected to this insulting order. But these young girls didn’t care,” Wang wrote.

“They rushed forward, pushed me against the floor, and stripped me. I was crying, and pleading with them at the same time. Why would they insult me like this? Why didn’t they have any compassion? Why were they so violent to a small woman like me?”

She was put in coarse iron handcuffs and shackles and punished if she failed to sit inside a small square on the detention center floor.

“Indeed, I felt that I was dying. I had entered an empty state; a pain that is hard to describe. I couldn’t breathe. I felt pain in every part of my body. I felt that my soul had already drifted away. That day, I thought, I really was like a dead person.

Wang’s arrest on July 9, 2015 took place the same night as her son was scheduled to fly out of Beijing to study abroad, but he was stopped at the airport and ended up under house arrest in remote Inner Mongolia, where Wang hails from.

Wang’s strong concern for her son “divulged a weakness for them to exploit. From that moment on, over the following year, they would often mention my son,” she wrote.

“When I did finally get back home after a year, I learned he had been under house arrest; that he had been prohibited from studying abroad; and had been monitored by more than a dozen guards every day.

“He was so young. At just 16 years old, he had also become a victim of the regime. My heart was devastated. A regime that uses a mother’s son to threaten her is shameless to the extreme,” wrote Wang.

Patrick Poon, China researcher for Amnesty International, told the online news site Hong Kong Free Press that her essay “once again shows how much pressure human rights lawyers and activists in China have to face.”

“It’s incomprehensible and ridiculous how a teenager preparing to study overseas would be accused of possibly ‘endangering national security.’ It’s obvious that it’s a retaliation against his parents’ human rights work,” said Poon.

Wang was released on bail in August 2016, but remains under tight surveillance with her family in Inner Mongolia and seldom sees friends or former law colleagues, her lawyer told RFA in a previous report.

RFA,2017/11/14

Rohingya Activists Urge Aung San Suu Kyi to Stop Myanmar Military Atrocities

Tun Khin (L), president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK; Myo Win (C), executive director of Smile Education and Development Foundation; and Wai Wai Nu (R), director of the Women Peace Network Arakan, discuss the ongoing violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state, in Washington, Nov. 1, 2017.

Three Rohingya activists have called on Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to speak out against the government military over alleged atrocities against Muslims in volatile northern Rakhine state and for the U.S. government to take stronger action to address the crisis.

About 630,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled northern Rakhine during a military crackdown in response to deadly attacks on police outposts by a Muslim militant group in late August. Some of those who have fled to neighboring Bangladesh have accused the military of indiscriminate killings, arson, torture, and rape, though the Myanmar government has denied the allegations.

While the government has pledged to put in place some of the recommendations made by an advisory commission on Rakhine that examined the causes of strife in the ethnically and religiously divided state, it has also prevented a fact-finding mission appointed by the United Nations from looking into reports of atrocities committed against Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh.

“Daw [honorific] Aung San Suu Kyi should have spoken up before,” Tun Khin, founder and president of the London-based Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK), a group that raises awareness of the plight of the Rohingya, a persecuted and stateless minority considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.

“Now she’s doing the same thing; she is covering up the crimes,” he said.

“They are crimes that are happening again and again,” said Tun Khin, one of three Rohingya activists who discussed their perspectives of the crisis in northern Rakhine in Washington on Nov. 1. “It’s never-ending now.”

Thousands of Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh during another crackdown by the military in response to smaller-scale attacks by the same Muslim militant group on border patrol stations in October 2016.

A report issued by BROUK on Nov. 1 supports previous evidence by human rights groups of atrocities committed by security forces against the Rohingya in recent months. BROUK interviewed a dozen refugees living in displacement camps in Bangladesh, documenting physical evidence of the atrocities, including rape, gunshot wounds, and injuries from landmines.

Myo Win, executive director of Smile Education and Development Foundation, an interfaith organization based in Yangon, agreed that Aung San Suu Kyi should speak out against the military.
“She should not defend the military,” he said.

“She should not ask why people are fleeing [from northern Rakhine], and why they are remaining,” he said, referring to her national address in September in which she indicated that the government did not know why the Rohingya were still fleeing the area, since subsequent attacks and military operations had ended on Sept. 5.

myanmar-congressman-eliot-engel-washington-nov1-2017-400.jpg
US Congressmen Eliot Engel (D-NY), ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, says he will introduce legislation to reimpose sanctions on the Myanmar military in response to violence against Rohingya Muslims, in Washington, Nov. 1, 2017. Credit: RFA

Given impunity

Wai Wai Nu, director of the Women Peace Network Arakan, a Yangon-based organization that conducts training to promote better understanding between the Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine people in western Myanmar, noted that despite the government’s statement that the crackdown had ended, Rohingya continue to flee Myanmar because the violence against them is ongoing.

Looting of their property continues because security forces have signaled that they will not protect them on account of their religion, while the state has prevented international NGOs from providing humanitarian aid, she said.

“Generally, the [ethnic] Rakhine [people] are encouraged or just allowed to loot properties of the Rohingya in front of everybody,” said Wai Wai Nu, who spent seven years in prison because her father was a member of parliament for the opposition.

“They just come and take goats and cows…sometimes along with security forces, sometimes without,” she said. “It’s not happening everywhere, but in most of the cases looters have been given impunity.”

As a first step, Aung San Suu Kyi must acknowledge there is a conflict in Rakhine, said Wai Wai Nu, who also cofounded the group Justice for Women, a network of female lawyers who provide legal aid to women in Myanmar.

“She can do it, and she has to do it,” she said, adding that the state counselor should use her moral authority and principles to forge peace in Myanmar.

“She can change the narrative by using her moral authority,” she said.

On Nov. 2, Aung San Suu Kyi paid a brief and unexpected visit to northern Rakhine state where she met with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, Muslims, and other ethnic minorities who live in the region to discuss the need for them to live peacefully together and the government’s humanitarian plans.

The Nobel laureate has come under fire by the international community for not speaking out about the treatment of the Rohingya in what the U.N. and others call “ethnic cleansing” in the region — an allegation Myanmar has rejected.

The day after Aung San Suu Kyi’s first visit to Rakhine since the two most recent crackdowns, U.S. Congressmen Eliot Engel (D-NY), ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Steve Chabot (R-OH), former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, introduced bipartisan legislation to reimpose sanctions on the Myanmar military in response to the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.

The legislation would prohibit U.S. military assistance to Myanmar until the perpetrators of atrocities are held accountable; impose trade, visa, and financial restrictions on the perpetrators; require reporting on “the ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and genocide taking place”; support investigations into the prosecution of war criminals; and promote economic development in Myanmar.

“The Burmese military drafted a constitution which allows it to operate with impunity which means that civilian leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi have no meaningful way to curb military abuses,” Engle said before the three activists spoke on Nov. 1.

“So I think we need to reconsider our policies now toward these Burmese military leaders who perpetuated these abuses,” he said.

If the bill goes through, it would be much more forceful than a statement that the U.S. government issued on Oct. 24 that said it is rescinding invitations for senior Myanmar military officials to attend U.S.-sponsored events and will deem military units involved in operations in northern Rakhine ineligible to participate in U.S. assistance programs.

The restrictions also called for unimpeded access to northern Rakhine for a United Nations fact-finding mission, international organizations, and the media, but U.S. officials did not go so far as to characterize the treatment of the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing.

‘US is not doing enough’

“I want to press again that we must bring those responsible to justice,” said Tun Khin, who calls the systematic violence against and persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar “genocide.”

“The U.S. must take stronger action,” he said. “The U.S. is not doing enough. It’s very disappointing. Whether they are still thinking about ethnic cleansing or not, the U.S. government must call immediately for a U.N.-mandated arms embargo and targeted sanctions and must send a U.N. peacekeeping force to protect the lives of the Rohingya.”

He also said the U.N. Security Council must pass a resolution referring Myanmar to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands, for failing to investigate mass atrocities against the Rohingya.

Two days later, his call was echoed by New York-based Human Rights Watch, which issued a statement urging U.N. member countries to pursue processes for gathering criminal evidence to advance prosecutions in the ICC and other courts.

On Monday, the U.N. Security Council abandoned plans to adopt a resolution after China strongly opposed the move. Instead, it issued a statement calling for an end to the violence in Rakhine state, full access for humanitarian aid workers in the conflict zone, and the return of the Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh.

Though U.S. President Donald Trump’s current 12-day tour of five Asian countries does not include Myanmar, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to visit the country on Nov. 15 to discuss the Rohingya crisis with Myanmar government leaders.

“It is important now for the U.S. government to support long-term democracy and human rights work in Burma,” said Tun Khin, referring to Myanmar by its previous name. “Currently what we are seeing is that Daw [honorific] Aung San Suu Kyi’s government is not perpetrating these crimes, but the anti-Rohingya campaign and hate speech are spreading out from there.”

“We want to live side by side with the [ethnic] Rakhine community,” he said. “The problem is the government has no political will to resolve the issue.”

“In this case, the U.S. government must press the [ruling ] NLD [National League for Democracy] government to coordinate with Rohingya leaders and Rakhine leaders to come together for dialogue, and the U.S. government and the international community must support these kind of programs.”

Radio Free Asia,2017-11-06

U.S. President Should Use His Trip to Beijing to Press China on Human Rights Violations

On October 16th the White House announced that President Trump’s first trip to Asia will demonstrate the United States’ commitment to its alliances and continued leadership in “promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

The U.S. commitment to human rights is an important part of this leadership. The President’s stop in Beijing is an opportunity to reaffirm the United State’s commitment to human rights and push China to adhere to international rights norms.

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) calls on the President and his administration to prioritize human rights when engaging China and to raise severe human rights abuses in East Turkestan.

China is currently doubling down on repressive policies, such as tightening restrictions on the internet and enforcing ideological conformity in the media and academia. There are increasing restrictions on freedom of religion and association, and cracking down on lawyers and activists working to push the government to respect its own laws.

The preoccupation with control and fear of its own citizens is acutely evident in East Turkestan. The government has been suspicious of Uyghurs as potential separatists for decades and has repressed traditional expressions of Uyghur identity such as language and religion.  The human rights situation has markedly deteriorated in the past several years, particularly since Chen Quanguo came into office as the regional Party Secretary in 2016.

This year has seen large numbers of of Uyghurs being sent to reeducation camps, where they are indefinitely detained and some are later sentenced to prison without trial.  Uyghur students studying abroad have been pressured to return home through threats to their families in China. Upon their return, their political attitudes are assessed. Some are sent to prison or to re-education camps. East Turkestan has been transformed into a high-tech police state through a massive expansion of the security forces and the latest technology allowing extensive surveillance in the region’s cities.

The case of Professor Ilham Tohti demonstrates that the Chinese government allows no room for even mild criticism that is an attempt to help improve human rights conditions in East Turkestan. His case should be raised as a particularly egregious example of the Chinese government’s repression of freedom of speech and minority rights. U.S. government officials should push for his release from his disproportionately harsh sentence of life in prison.

The situation in East Turkestan has disturbing implications for human rights worldwide as it turns into a testing ground for a modern security state and China seeks to increase its influence in Central and South Asia and beyond.

UHRP urges the U.S. administration to:

1) Prioritize human rights in the United States’ China policy. Develop a coordinated strategy across different agencies to ensure a place for human rights as they engage with China.

2) Make the situation in East Turkestan a priority in dialogues with China, push for U.S. embassy officials to be granted the ability to travel there to monitor the situation on the ground.

3) Ensure that in any security and counterterrorism engagement with China, legitimate and peaceful political and religious practices are not conflated with extremism and terrorism.

4) Raise the case of Ilham Tothi, and continue to have the State Department and other U.S. government officials raise his case in both private meetings with their Chinese counterparts and publicly.

Uyghur Human Rights Project,November 6, 2017

Widow of Late Chinese Dissident ‘In Yunnan’ as Traditional Mourning Period Ends

Seven weeks after the death of Chinese dissident and Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, his wife is still being held in an unknown location by the authorities, sources told RFA on Tuesday.

Liu Xiaobo’s widow Liu Xia holds his photo as an unidentified man (R) carries an urn holding his ashes. Shenyang City News Burea

Liu Xia hasn’t been seen in public, or by friends and close family, since she was photographed at her husband’s sea-burial shortly after his death on July 13.

Officials have said she is “free, but grief-stricken” and doesn’t want to be disturbed.

Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia, who is a close friend of Liu Xia’s, said she is being held under illegal detention by the ruling Chinese Communist Party in the southwestern province of Yunnan, however.

“We are actually extremely worried about Liu Xia, and we think she is at even more risk than Liu Xiaobo was [during his lifetime],” Hu said. “The authorities aren’t even going to discuss [letting her return home] ahead of the 19th Party Congress.”

Hu said Liu isn’t even being allowed to go out to carry out traditional widow’s mourning rites, seven weeks after his death.

“They have told her she has no hope of being allowed to go outside before next year’s National People’s Congress annual session [in March in Beijing],” he said. “After that, then they’ll see, but she has to go along with it for now.”

“The authorities have stepped up their security alert and their stability maintenance measures for that whole period,” Hu said.

“Apart from knowing that she is in Dali, Yunnan, I have had no news of her whatsoever,” he added.

Liu Xiaobo’s late diagnosis, and the refusal of the government to allow him to go overseas on medical parole, had sparked widespread public anger, with the governments of Germany and the U.S. offering him the best possible treatment.

Suspicious video

Concerns are growing over the mental and physical health of Liu Xia, who has suffered depression and heart problems under house arrest since October 2010, and has reportedly asked to be allowed to go overseas to seek treatment herself.

On Aug. 18, a video of Liu Xia in which she said she was “safe” leaked online.

“I am now in retreat out of town,” she said. “Please give me time.”

But her friends said at the time that the video was likely scripted and produced by the authorities, as it repeated official claims about her status.

China increasingly uses scripted statements and video “confessions” by detainees under duress to back up its narrative about their “crimes” or their mental state.

But Liu Xia’s friend, Guangdong-based writer Ye Du, said he doesn’t believe she is well.

“Liu Xia’s mental state is bound to be unstable,” Ye told RFA. “I think everyone who knows her is going to be worried about her.”

A number of social media users have been detained in recent weeks for posting supportive or commemorative statements about Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia, including one social media user who asked to remain anonymous.

“Of course they are going to warn people off,” the social media user said. “But nobody here pays any heed to them.”

“They are doing it because it’s their job.”

Memorials for Liu Xiaobo

An activist surnamed Huang in the southern province of Guangdong said he and several others were detained for carrying memorials for Liu Xiaobo and posting to social media about it.

“They have all been sent back to their hometowns where they are under surveillance by their local governments, and they’re not allowed to leave,” Huang said. “There were a lot of people in Guangdong in this situation.”

A second anonymous activist said he plans to post online in memory of Liu Xiaobo on the seventh week after his death, which falls on Aug. 31.

“We all want to take this opportunity, the last in the seven-week mourning period, to commemorate Liu Xiaobo,” the activist said. “We want to protest against this dictatorial regime, and preparations are being made among people here and organizations overseas.”

“Here in China, we have to prepare in secret, because the authorities will take steps to prevent any sort of mass event,” he said. “Any form of honest self-expression is a threat, so far as they’re concerned.”

The first seven-day mourning rites after Liu Xiaobo’s death were observed in secret by activists in mainland China, and more openly in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

Activists visited beaches and shorelines, making offerings in memory of the burial of Liu’s ashes in an urn at sea in defiance of attempts by Chinese officials to prevent democracy and rights activists from making a shrine to him after death.

Activists used candles, flowers, portraits of Liu and empty chairs as a focus for their offerings, in a reference to the empty chair that represented him at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony in Oslo.

At the time of his death at the age of 61, Liu had been serving an 11-year jail term for “incitement to subvert state power,” linked to his online writings promoting democracy and constitutional government. They included Charter 08, a document that was signed by more than 300 prominent scholars, writers, and rights activists around the country.

In the document, the former literature professor called for concerned Chinese citizens to rally to bring about change, citing an increasing loss of control by the Communist Party and heightened hostility between the authorities and ordinary people.

Radio Free Asia,2017-08-29

Dissidents Voice Fears That China Will Use Interpol to Come After Peaceful Critics

Veteran democracy activist Wei Jingsheng and fellow Chinese dissidents and journalists demonstrate outside Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office, July 10, 2017

Veteran democracy activist Wei Jingsheng and fellow Chinese dissidents and journalists demonstrate outside Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office, July 10, 2017

 As China’s vice minister of public security Meng Hongwei takes the presidency of international police organization Interpol, which issued a “red notice” for wanted billionaire Guo Wengui earlier this year, dissidents in exile have voiced fears that they could be next in line.

Earlier this month in Germany, veteran democracy activist Wei Jingsheng and fellow Chinese dissidents and journalists demonstrated outside Germany’s federal police bureau over concerns that Interpol will be coopted by authorities member states to pursue peaceful activists.

“Who are the biggest criminals in the world?” Qian Yuejun, chief editor of the Chinese newspaper Europe China Guidance, said in a short speech at the rally outside Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office. “They are the people who take away other people’s human rights.”

“There are a number of authoritarian states, authoritarian regimes, that are members of Interpol, and they are now using Interpol to pursue people who challenge their power,” Qian said. “This is wrong. Interpol should be used to pursue criminals, not democracy activists or human rights campaigners.”

Wei told the gathering that his name has long been on the Chinese government’s Interpol wanted list, leading to his brief detention in Switzerland when he traveled there to attend an event.

“China has already used Interpol to do a lot of bad things, and now the vice minister of public security is in charge of it,” Wei said. “Interpol is gradually sliding down the slippery slope towards becoming a fascist organization reminiscent of World War II.”

“Now, Interpol is once more being infiltrated by the dictatorial regime in China, who have been placing huge pressure on exile dissidents for many years now,” Wei said. “They will use various excuses to target these exiles, including labeling ethnic minorities as terrorists.”

“I don’t want to see them becoming a hitman for dictatorial regimes.”

Qian said there is a precedent for such a takeover, when the organization was controlled by key figures in the German secret police.

Wei said he had contacted Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock to discuss the dissidents’ concerns, but that he had declined to get involved in the campaign, saying he doesn’t engage in politics.

Trumped-up criminal charges

Qian said that Interpol regulations prohibit any country from pursuing suspects for political, military or religious reasons, but said authoritarian member states are flouting such rules through the use of trumped-up criminal charges instead.

“Actually … Interpol itself has no power as an organization; it is more of an independent association,” he said. “It can’t be regulated by anything outside itself, so it is very vulnerable to being manipulated.”

But he said the organization does have the option of making a “red notice” advisory only, meaning that member states can choose whether or not to act on it.

Meanwhile, Meng has called for deeper cooperation between the public and private sectors to combat online and financial crime.

Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock responded by saying that the organization is “ideally positioned” to be the gateway and interface for more streamlined cooperation between global law enforcement agencies and private industry partners.

With 190 member countries, Interpol is the second largest intergovernmental organization next to the United Nations.

Meng was elected president at the Interpol General Assembly held in 2016 and will serve until 2020.

China already wields increasing influence among its smaller neighbors, who have proved willing to detain dissidents fleeing persecution and send them back again without the need for Interpol.

Chinese dissidents who have sought political refuge in Thailand have described a climate of fear for exiles in the country, which has cooperated with the repatriation of several peaceful critics of the regime, including Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai and Chongqing-based activists Dong Guangping and Jiang Yefei.

Jiang and Dong, who had fled persecution in their home country, were handed back to Chinese authorities last November in a move that drew strong criticism from the U.N. They are now in criminal detention in Chongqing, where they face subversion charges.

Jiang’s wife Chu Ling and Dong’s wife Gu Shuhua and daughter Dong Xuerui flew to Canada from Bangkok for resettlement as political refugees just days after the two men were repatriated. They now fear Jiang and Dong are  at risk of torture and other violations of their rights.

RFA, 2017-07-25

Vietnam Land, Labor Activist Handed Nine-Year Prison Term

A human rights defender jailed in Vietnam for her online activism was sentenced on Tuesday to nine years in prison and five years’ probation on a charge of conducting propaganda against the state, sources said.

Tran Thi Nga, 40, was sentenced by a court in northern Vietnam’s Ha Nam province after being convicted under Article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code, a provision frequently used to silence dissident bloggers and other activists.

Though videos and articles posted online by Nga were described by government prosecutors as anti-state propaganda, “Nga rejected the evidence [presented against her],” Ha Huy Son, one of her defense attorneys,  told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on July 25.

“Her lawyers assert that the evidence gathered against her was not collected according to Vietnamese legal procedures, and so we asked the court to release her,” Son said. “But ultimately the court did not accept our arguments, and gave her that sentence.”

Son said that he expects Nga to appeal her sentence “very soon,” adding that no one from the activist’s family was allowed inside the court on Tuesday.

“Only the police and people summoned by the court were there,” he said.

Activists and other supporters had come to Ha Nam to attend the trial, but were blocked from entering the building, activist La Viet Dung told RFA.

“The police gave the excuse that the courtroom was full, so we asked them to use speakers so we could hear from outside, but they refused,” Dung said.

“At first, they let us stand right in front of the court, but then they said we were disturbing public order and chased us away.”

Police then blocked the dissidents again by driving buses in front of them, “trying to discourage us by running their engines and discharging exhaust, but we just kept sitting there,” Dung said.

“When we returned to that spot in the afternoon, it was barricaded,” he said.

Nga, who has two children, is well known for defending the rights of Vietnamese migrant workers and victims of government land grabs, and in May 2014 suffered serious injury when she was assaulted by a group of men wielding metal pipes.

The seizure of land for development, often without due process or fair compensation for displaced residents, is a major cause of protests in Vietnam and other authoritarian Asian countries, including China and Cambodia.

RFA, 2017-07-25