Kamm Visits Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo to Review Cooperation

John Kamm with Swedish Ambassador-at-Large for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law Annika Ben David,May 2019 Image Credit Amb. Annika Ben David

Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm paid visits to the capitals of three Scandinavian countries – Copenhagen (Denmark), Stockholm (Sweden) and Oslo (Norway) – from May 5 to May 14, 2019. He met with government officials and senior staff of non-governmental and international humanitarian organizations involved in handling relations with China.

In Copenhagen, Kamm met with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Danish Institute for Human Rights, and a group of labor and Christian activists. In Stockholm, Kamm held several meetings with senior ministers and state secretaries as well as the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Finally, in Oslo, Kamm met with the Secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, the Secretary of the Storting’s International Committee, and several officials in the human rights and East Asia sections of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The three countries have provided financial support to Dui Hua for more than 10 years. The meetings provided Kamm an opportunity to review the progress in meeting the goals of the grants.

On May 5, the day Kamm arrived in Copenhagen, President Donald Trump unleashed a twitter storm accusing China of reneging on commitments it allegedly made in the long-running talks to resolve trade differences between the two countries. Tensions in U.S.-China relations were a topic in virtually every discussion between Kamm and his interlocutors. Dui Hua’s executive director stressed that the “trade war” was but one of many conflicts between China and the U.S. Of equal importance is the technology war, something very much on the minds of Scandinavian officials who are grappling with the question of whether and to what extent China telecom giant Huawei should participate in the building of the countries’ 5G networks.

Other dimensions of the conflict between the two countries were ideological disagreements that had led to the closure of several Confucius Institutes in the United States, the drop in people-to-people exchanges—the so-called “visa war”—sharp difference over human rights, notably over China’s treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang, and strategic flashpoints, including Taiwan, the South China Sea, and Hong Kong.

Time was spent discussing the current situation in Hong Kong, where the government’s plan to enact an extradition law would allow for the transfer of people wanted in China back to the mainland. Tens of thousands of people had taken to the streets in the former British colony on April 28 to protest the proposed legislation. On May 1, a brawl erupted between opposing groups of legislators in the Legislative Council chamber. The proposed law had drawn criticism from foreign governments, human rights groups, and foreign chambers of commerce.

Although the three countries enjoy generally good relations with China, all have disagreements of varying intensity. China is displeased with the decision to reopen the investigation by the Danish government into the police handling of Tibetan protests in 2012, as well as the Danish government’s move to block Chinese participation in an airport project in Greenland. The most nettlesome issue in Sino-Swedish relations remains the treatment of Swedish citizen Gui Minhai. Since Gui was seized by Chinese law enforcement officers on board a train, in the company of Swedish diplomats, in January 2018, Sweden has not been granted consular access.

By comparison, Norway’s relations have been sound since normalization of relations in 2016. Ties with China had been icy for six years following the awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Shortly after Kamm departed Oslo to return to the United States, Norway’s parliament, the Storting, hosted a four-day visit to Norway by Li Zhanshu, Chairman of China’s National People’s Congress and the third most powerful man in China after President and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. In addition to discussing Huawei’s possible participation in Norway’s 5G network, talks took place on energy cooperation. After sessions in Oslo, Li and his delegation travelled to Stavenger, the center of Norway’s oil industry.

Kamm Speaks at San Francisco’s University Club

On May 28, 2019, Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm addressed a sold-out audience at San Francisco’s University Club, one of the city’s oldest clubs, and one steeped in history. The topic of his speech was “How Tiananmen Changed China – and Me.” Kamm, who was in China when the tragic events of June 4, 1989 took place, surveyed developments in China’s economy, society, and politics over the last three decades. He answered numerous questions in a lively Q&A at the end of his remarks.

Although she was unable to attend the event, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi sent Kamm a message: “I take this opportunity to remember the human rights abuses which befell the Chinese people. Your remarks regarding Tiananmen preserve the legacy of heroes.”


In May, Dui Hua received a government response on 17 prisoners in Hebei. Most of them concerned Falun Gong practitioners or adherents of other religious sects labelled “cults” by the Chinese government. It is worth noting that none of them had received any clemency. The only exception was Zhao Lirong (赵丽荣), a petitioner serving her four-year sentence for picking quarrels and provoking troubles. In 2008, her farmland was expropriated by the government and a glass manufacturing company was granted the right to use her land. She received 100,000 yuan compensation, but was subsequently sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment for destruction of property because she demolished the walls of the company in 2009. Upon release, she petitioned township, county, and city governments against the expropriation and demanded additional compensation. In 2015 alone, she petitioned eight times in Beijing, including six times at Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party and State Council. She was convicted in June 2016, and two months later, the Pingquan County People’s Court upheld the original sentence. Zhao is scheduled for release in December 2019, three months earlier than the expected release date.

Another government response Dui Hua received in April provided new information concerning four prisoners sentenced for subversion of state power in Guangdong due to their affiliation with the so-called Shadow Corps (Yingzibintuan 影子兵团), which allegedly aimed to overthrow the Communist Party of China in a violent revolution, according to official accounts. Dui Hua has previously reported that Xiang Fengxuan (项逢选) was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment. The response revealed that Ma Ji (马骥) is now serving his five-year sentence in Heyuan Prison and will be due for release in August 2020. Also serving in Guangdong’s Heyuan Prison, Yang Wanben (杨万本) is expected to complete his four-year sentence on August 16, 2019. Another corps member Su Dongliang (苏东亮) has already been released from prison on an unspecified date.

The same response also stated that prominent activist Chen Qitang (陈启棠) in Guangdong had not been granted clemency during his four years and six months’ imprisonment for inciting subversion. Chen was released from Sihui Prison on May 24, 2019. When the Occupy Central Movement broke out in Hong Kong in September 2014, Chen was in the former British colony. After he returned to Guangdong, he disseminated articles in support of the civil disobedience campaign that called for genuine universal suffrage. Chen was not sentenced until March 2017, after spending more than two years in custody. Chen had previously been imprisoned for more than two years in 2008 for swindling by false pretenses, apparently in reprisal for helping villagers over farmland expropriation in Guangdong.

Dui Hua’s research into court websites has recently discovered several cases of illegal business activities in 2016 related to the publication of religious booklets. Wang Xiaoyan (王小燕), Xia Songzhi (夏松芝), and Li Kehua (栗克华) were convicted of printing and selling booklets that promoted Xinling Famen (心灵法门), a Buddhist-sounding religious sect also known as Guanyin Citta Dharma Door. Wang will remain in prison in Shanghai until January 2021, while Li and Xia are now serving their suspended sentences in Henan until December 2019 and December 2020, respectively.


Featured: Human Rights Journal: Hurry Up and Wait: The Robert Schellenberg Case

Robert Schellenberg, Dalian Intermediate Court, Jan 14, 2019. Image Credit:

As U.S.-China relations sink ever lower, the list of urgent criminal cases involving Western citizens in China has increased. In just the last few weeks Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were formally arrested on espionage charges and American Mark Swidan was given a suspended death sentence for drug trafficking.

Amid so many arrests and sentences, a May 9 appeal hearing in the case of Robert Schellenberg, a Canadian sentenced to death for drug trafficking, went largely unnoticed. Although Schellenberg’s appeal hearing concluded without pronouncement of a sentence, the timing of the hearing—the day after a hearing in Vancouver for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou—points to the continuing role of international politics in the outcome of his case.

Schellenberg’s case is part of a larger emerging dynamic of tit-for-tat detention diplomacy, but it is also unique because it is both overtly political and carries a death sentence. No other case is so inextricably bound up with that of a Chinese national being held in the West. Schellenberg’s fate has unfolded in parallel to that of Meng, a Chinese citizen who is currently detained in Canada pending extradition to the United States. After her detention Chinese state media representatives ominously warned there would be retaliation. Schellenberg’s sudden, unusual retrial and capital sentence followed shortly thereafter, leading many to conclude that it is Canada, as well as Schellenberg, that is being punished in this case. The fact that Schellenberg’s most recent hearing in Dalian took place the day after Meng appeared in court in Vancouver suggests that the two cases remain linked. As Huawei has moved to the center of a global struggle over China’s role in technology markets in the last few weeks, the political stakes in the two cases have increased as well.

Human Rights Journal: Complaints with Retribution: China’s Muffling of Gaoyangzhuag


Dui Hua Welcomes New Staff in San Francisco and Hong Kong

A measure of an organization’s sustainability is its ability to attract new talent committed to carrying out the organization’s mission. Dui Hua has been fortunate over the years in bringing in veterans and young professionals alike to serve in its San Francisco headquarters and Hong Kong branch office.

Recent additions to the ranks of the foundation are:

Elizabeth (“Lili”) Cole is Dui Hua’s Senior Manager based in San Francisco overseeing publications and program development.  Lili spent 10 years at the United States Institute for Peace in Washington D.C. before joining Dui Hua. She has years of experience working in/on China and has a lifelong interest in human rights and US-China relations.

Also based in San Francisco, Joshua Nederhood is Dui Hua’s new Development and Operations Associate. Joshua spent a year in Wuhan and Beijing researching policy and markets for a senior care company and a development consultancy.

Joining our Hong Kong research team are Kenneth Yung and Ray Yuen.  Kenneth holds a Ph.D. in modern Chinese history from the University of Sydney and has taught in Hong Kong’s higher education sector for five years. Ray holds a Master of Laws in Human Rights from the University of Hong Kong. 


John Kamm Remembers is a feature that explores Kamm’s human rights advocacy prior to and since Dui Hua’s establishment in 1999.

June 4, 1989 in Zhuhai and Macau

In the spring of 1989 I was Far East Vice President of Occidental Chemical (Oxychem), a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, a large American corporation. I lived in Hong Kong where I was also First Vice President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. AMCHAM, as it was known, was the largest American chamber of commerce outside of North America. As First Vice President, I was in line to become president of the chamber in 1990.

Under my direction, Oxychem had concluded a letter of intent with a chemical factory in Qingdao to form a joint venture to produce sodium silicate, a chemical used to manufacture, among other things, detergents. Oxychem was a leader in producing this chemical and held a proprietary license that we would contribute as a part of our equity. This was to be a groundbreaking venture, the first 50:50 jointly owned company between an American company and a Chinese state-owned enterprise.

The time had come to conclude a detailed agreement, and I formed a team of technical, financial, and marketing executives to travel with me to China. Where should we meet with our Chinese counterparts?

Starting in mid-April 1989, China was in turmoil. Violent riots had broken out in Xi’an and Changsha, and in Beijing more than 100,000 students were occupying Tiananmen Square. On May 20, Chinese Premier Li Peng ordered martial law in parts of Beijing. Several hundred thousand troops were mobilized and took up positions surrounding Beijing.

Oxychem and Qingdao decided to hold the negotiations in Zhuhai, a special economic zone that bordered Macau, a Portuguese-ruled territory across the Pearl River from Hong Kong. I took the high-speed ferry that departed Hong Kong for Macau at 9:30 AM on May 31.

Ruins of St. Paul’s Church, Macau
Image Credit Flickr/Razlan

I decided to take care of AMCHAM business before my Oxychem colleagues arrived.  On May 31, I had a luncheon meeting with the American business community in Macau. The conversation focused on the gathering storm in Beijing. Attendees were split between an optimistic assessment – there would be no violence, and economic and political reform would eventually take place – and a pessimistic assessment – the Chinese Communist Party would not give up without a fight, a fight that would likely involve bloodshed.

After lunch I met with Portuguese officials in charge of running Macau’s economy. These meetings spilled over into the next day, June 1, when the Oxychem team was due to arrive in Macau. They arrived on schedule and we set off for Zhuhai at 12:30 PM. After settling into our hotel, negotiations with the Qingdao Chemical Bureau and the Chinese factory that was to be our partner began at 3:00 PM.

Negotiations continued on June 2 and lasted from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. They were followed by a dinner hosted by Qingdao.

The next day, June 3, negotiations continued. The focus was on Oxychem’s technology and the terms and conditions of the license. They wrapped up for the day at 6:00 PM, after which the two sides gathered for a dinner hosted by Oxychem in the hotel’s restaurant.

The private room where we dined had a television that was tuned to Hong Kong’s Jade TV station. There was live coverage of events in Beijing where martial law troops were closing in on Tiananmen Square. One could hear the sounds of shots and see plumes of smoke from barricades and vehicles set alight by Beijing citizens trying to stop the advance of the troops.

Our Chinese guests were clearly upset. One of them, an engineer known for his progressive views on reform, shouted in protest: “My government has gone crazy!” He was admonished by the senior party member present to be silent in the presence of foreigners. The dinner broke up shortly thereafter.

The next day, June 4, was a Sunday. The Oxychem team decided to take the day off and tour Macau. As we headed for the border, we encountered an eerie silence. There were signs of turmoil the night before. Posters denouncing the Communist party and the government were plastered in conspicuous locations including bus stops. Guards at the border were few in number. Many had deserted their posts. The Zhuhai border crossing was to become a favored exit point for dissidents fleeing post-Tiananmen China.

In Macau I showed my crew around the city and its two islands. I knew Macau well, having lived there in 1972. While touring the sights, we came across large protests outside of China’s Xinhua News Agency in the city center, not far from the Leal Senado. The protesters were raucous but peaceful. There were long lines outside the Macau branch of the Bank of China. People were removing their deposits in a flight from danger, but also in deliberate attempt to bankrupt China’s largest state-owned bank. The Oxychem team decided to return to Zhuhai.

The final negotiation took place on Monday morning, June 5. Talks were suspended by mutual agreement. A sense of dread filled the room. No one had any idea where China was heading. The live feed from Beijing had been cut. We packed our belongings and voluminous files and prepared to leave the hotel. Social order was breaking down. I went to find a young colleague whose room had been entered by two women seeking his company. I shooed them away, and they left after they cleaned out the minibar.

We arrived in Hong Kong to find a city in turmoil. Before the events of June 4 in Beijing and other Chinese cities, including Guangzhou where protesters had blockaded the Pearl River bridge, Hong Kong was primarily a commercial city. Protests of any sort rarely attracted more than a few hundred people. That changed after June 4, 1989. Hundreds of thousands of protesters filled the streets chanting anti-China slogans, condemning the Communist Party. Hong Kong had become a political city. It has remained so to this day.

An emergency meeting of AMCHAM’s Board of Governors was convened on June 7. I pressed for a strong statement condemning what had already become known as the Tiananmen Massacre, but which also endorsed the limited sanctions imposed on China by the administration of President George W. Bush. Most of those sanctions have been lifted, though an arms embargo remains in place. Over the objection of governors representing large corporations, the board endorsed the statement I drafted. AMCHAM subsequently placed the statement in leading English and Chinese language newspapers.

Later on June 7, I received a call from an American parent of a young man who was teaching in China in the Princeton-in-Asia program. His father lived in Kentucky and worked for a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum. He asked me to help evacuate his son from China. I agreed to do so, and word quickly spread that the office of Occidental Chemical Far East would provide a haven for Princeton students who were able to make it out of the Chinese cities where they were teaching. One by one they showed up in my conference room where I and my staff made arrangements for food and lodging, and for tickets back home.

We coordinated our work with that of the American Consulate General, where an emergency meeting of the American community in Hong Kong took place on Friday morning June 9. More meetings were held at AMCHAM the following week. Later that week the last of the Princeton students left my office and returned to the United States.

I stayed in Hong Kong for another six years before returning to the United States. I served my one-year term as president of the chamber, and made my first intervention on behalf of a political prisoner in May 1990, immediately before traveling to Washington D.C. to testify on China’s Most-Favored-Relatio trading status. I resigned from Oxychem in 1991and began traveling to Beijing and other Chinese cities to hand over prisoner lists and visit places of detention. I moved my family to San Francisco in July 1995, and have lived there since, though I keep an apartment and an office in Hong Kong, my second home.