Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm spent the week of April 21 in Geneva. Kamm met privately with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, as well as with International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Peter Maurer. Kamm introduced Dui Hua’s work to staff members of six UN Special Procedures and made a presentation to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which was holding its 69th session.
A hot topic of discussion was the adoption of the final report on China’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the end of March. The closing session, during which time is allotted for NGOs to make statements, was contentious, with NGOs demanding a minute of silence for Cao Shunli (曹顺利). Cao was a Chinese activist who died shortly after being released from detention in March 2014; she was detained at Beijing Capital International Airport while trying to board a plane to Geneva to attend sessions of the Human Rights Council in September 2013. China protested the attempt to honor Cao, citing procedural issues. The debate became so heated that adoption of the final report was delayed for a day—something without precedent in the annals of the UPR mechanism, now well into its fifth year.
In both its 2009 and 2013 UPRs, China committed to invite High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to visit China at a mutually convenient time. Although discussions between the Chinese government and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) over the timing of the visit continue to take place, it is increasingly problematic that she will be able to make the visit before her mandate expires in August. There is speculation that the Chinese government remains irked by the high commissioner’s remarks on Tibet and the treatment of political activists who have been sentenced to long prison terms for subversion.
If Ms. Pillay does not go to China, it will be the first time a high commissioner has not visited the country during the period of his or her mandate. Meanwhile, the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination Against Women in Law and in Practice successfully completed an eight-day visit to China in December 2013, and China’s Permanent Mission is working on issuing invitations to three other Special Procedures this year.
After spending a week in Geneva, Kamm visited Berne, Copenhagen, and Stockholm before returning to the United States on May 1. All three capitals enjoy bilateral human rights dialogues with China—Switzerland having its own, and Denmark and Sweden being active participants in the European Union’s. Switzerland conducts expert exchanges on prison administration with China’s Ministry of Justice, while the European Union is pursuing a policy of “mainstreaming” human rights into exchanges with Chinese ministries other than the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), which conducts human rights dialogues.
The number of functioning rights dialogues has been declining. Two days before the United Kingdom’s dialogue was set to begin on April 16, the MFA abruptly cancelled in response to China’s designation as a “country of concern” in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s annual survey of rights conditions around the globe. The US-China rights dialogues tentatively scheduled for this summer are likely to be cancelled over President Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in February. If the dialogue resumes prior to the end of the Obama administration in January 2017, the US side will be led by Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski. The former Washington Director of Human Rights Watch was confirmed by the US Senate on April 2, 2014.
While deemphasizing bilateral rights dialogues, China is placing greater importance on its interactions with the Human Rights Council and OHCHR. (China continues to respond to requests for information and urgent appeals by Special Procedures, with its 80 percent response rate among the highest of countries that receive these inquiries.) Given this shift, Dui Hua will continue to make semi-annual visits to Geneva, fully utilizing its UN Special Consultative Status. The next visit is likely to be in October, when China reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Several officials and diplomats urged Dui Hua to report on its women in prison symposium at CEDAW’s session. With financial support from the OHCHR, Dui Hua successfully held the symposium, Women in Prison: An International Symposium on Women in Prison, in Hong Kong in February.
Background:Dui Hua was granted Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 2005. Since then, Dui Hua staff members have made biannual visits to Geneva, the seat of the Human Rights Council and home of the OHCHR. On past visits, staff members have participated in the UPRs of China (2009, 2013) and the United States (2010), submitted statements to meetings of treaty bodies and thematic mechanisms, and given specialized presentations to members and staff of Special Procedures on topics including women in prison, detention without trial, and enforced or involuntary disappearances.
Meetings are held with senior members of OHCHR, including the Special Procedures Division, as well as diplomats of permanent missions including those of the China, France, Norway, Switzerland, the United States, and other countries interested in promoting respect for human rights in China. Opportunities are taken to renew close working relationships with the ICRC and other non-governmental organizations like the Quaker United Nations Office and Human Rights Watch.
In April, Executive Director John Kamm and Programs & Publications Associate Rene Kamm uncovered the names of 60 Chinese political prisoners at a university library. About half of the individuals were involved in political cases during the 1980s and 1990s, when counterrevolutionary crimes were used to prosecute people involved in political activism, banned religious groups, and espionage activities. (In 1997, Chinese lawmakers omitted “counterrevolutionary” crimes from the Criminal Law and added to the law “endangering state security” crimes.) About one third were in religious and qigong groups, including Falun Gong, that were banned by the central government starting in 1999.
Several of those named were involved in the “counterrevolutionary rioting” that shook China in the spring and summer of 1989. In Baoji, Shaanxi Province, Li Yajun (李亚军) was detained for harboring Xue Yan (薛焰), a leader of the Xi’an Students’ Autonomous Federation that was accused of organizing student and worker strikes. In August, literary magazine editor Lin Peng (林鹏) was detained for interrogation for “viciously attacking the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the socialist system.” In Jiangxi Province, the Nanchang Intermediate People’s Court concluded five counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement cases in the first half of 1990. Among the defendants, Xiong Binpeng (熊斌鹏), was sentenced to one-year in prison for founding a workers’ “solidarity union,” chanting reactionary slogans, giving anti-government speeches, and organizing demonstrators to march on main thoroughfares. Xiong worked at a thermal-power construction company.
In September 2004, She Yanping (佘炎坪) was detained in another case involving reactionary slogans. He was accused of writing slogans like “Down with the fake CPC” on government property. Some of his rhymes were directed at specific officials and events, but official records redacted their full names. Among those mentioned were Jiang’s sex scandals and Zhu and Wen’s failure to build a strong national economy to provide enough food and clothing for common people.
Dui Hua has obtained information on three people serving sentences for inciting subversion who received sentence reductions for “good behavior” in January 2014.
Granted a 22-month reduction, Lü Jiaping (吕加平) is now scheduled for release from Hunan’s Shaoyang Prison on March 14, 2019. The Beijing No.1 Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Lü to 10 years’ imprisonment in May 2011. According to the verdict, Lü “created rumors” and “defamed” the CPC in a number of essays he disseminated via email and uploaded to his personal website. Several of the articles circulated on overseas websites made reference to Jiang Zemin, who served as Chinese president from 1993‒2003. In the article that received the most page views (6,864 views from 15 links as of September 30, 2010), Lü called Jiang’s family “traitors” who collaborated with Japan during World War II, and said Jiang ceded a total of 1.5 million km² of China’s northeast territories to Russia. Unofficial news media reported that Lü also wrote about Jiang’s alleged sex scandals. Lü is 73 years old and reportedly suffers from heart problems, diabetes, and femoral head necrosis.
Sun Fangyun (孙芳云) is one of the few women known to be serving a sentence for endangering state security (ESS) in China. After a 15-month sentence reduction, she is expected to be released from Anhui Women’s Prison in 2016. She was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in March 2009 for inciting subversion and “organizing a cult to undermine implementation of the law.” The bulk of the lengthy sentence was for cult activities. Sun is the first person sentenced to both ESS and cult crimes for whom Dui Hua has obtained official records. Dui Hua’s Political Prisoner Database has information on about a dozen of Falun Gong practitioners who were charged solely with inciting subversion.
Xiamen resident Wang Jicheng (王集成) received a seven-month sentence reduction for his “excellent performance” singing “red songs” and laboring in Jianyang Prison in Fujian Province. Wang is the only Han Chinese person Dui Hua knows to have been convicted of inciting splittism, a charge commonly brought against Tibetans and Uyghurs. He was sentenced to eight years’ in prison for inciting splittism and inciting subversion in 2009. The details of Wang’s case are not yet known, but given his ethnicity and proximity to Taiwan, it may have involved Taiwanese independence. Wang is currently scheduled for release on January 4, 2016.
After three years in Dui Hua’s Hong Kong office, Programs & Publications Manager Megan Ko is returning to the United States for personal reasons. Ms. Ko’s last day as a full-time manager will be May 31, after which she will continue to assist Dui Hua as an independent contractor.
Ms. Ko was responsible for producing scores of top-flight publications and reports, and she served as lead manager for our women in prison symposium and editor of Dui Hua publications. In her new capacity, she will continue to provide editorial support and work on other projects.
Featured Article: Outside Beijing: Official June Fourth Accounts (Part 1) (April 28)
A week after Hu Yaobang, a reform-minded former Communist Party general secretary, passed away on April 15, 1989, tens of thousands of students marched to Tiananmen Square to hold a memorial that would become an occupation. What transpired in the capital charged the entire nation, leaving many dead and injured. Through its open source research, Dui Hua has collected scores of official accounts of the spring 1989 protests in cities across China. Starting this month, with excerpts from a public security record from Baoji, Shaanxi Province, we will publish a series of translations of detailed accounts of the disturbances.
Last month’s Digest: April 2014
Dui Hua’s story began more than 20 years ago, on May 9, 1990, when Dui Hua founder and Executive Director John Kamm made his first intervention on behalf of a Chinese political prisoner. At the time, renewal of China’s Most Favored Nation (MFN) tariff status was being debated by the US Congress. Less than one year after June Fourth, many who testified before Congress called for removing or conditioning China’s MFN, which would place higher tariffs on nearly all Chinese exports.
John Kamm, then president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, was one of the few to testify in favor of renewing it. On May 16, he told Congress that removing the MFN would hurt human rights in China by further isolating the country and weakening reform-minded allies in China.
One week before Kamm’s testimony, Zhou Nan, Beijing’s senior representative in Hong Kong, hosted a banquet in Hong Kong. Zhou was toasting Kamm for his defense of China’s MFN, when Kamm suddenly interrupted to ask for something in return—the release of a student detained in Shanghai for his involvement in the 1989 protests. Kamm reasoned that clemency towards political prisoners would facilitate the renewal of China’s MFN. Zhou was not pleased but agreed to “look into it.”
Congress renewed China’s MFN and China released the student protester in June 1990. Another nine years would pass before Kamm founded Dui Hua, but his first intervention was testament to a growing belief in the cause of advancing rights through dialogue.
Read the full story