Posts Tagged ‘China’


This is an extract from Amnesty’s annual death penalty report for 2020 which, overall, is good news with a decline in the use of the penalty around the world. It excludes China which executes thousands of its citizens but does not publish figures which are a state secret.

Once again the number of known executions has fallen (by 26%) and at 483 is now at its lowest for 10 years.  The number of known death sentences imposed has also fallen. Much of the fall in execution numbers has been driven by significant reductions in Saudi Arabia (down 84%) and Iraq (down over 50%).  However, these falls have been offset by a tripling of executions in Egypt to at least 107.

The five countries that executed the most people are China (1,000s), Iran (at least 246), Egypt (at least 107), Iraq (at least 45) and Saudi Arabia (27). In the USA the picture is mixed with state executions significantly down but this was negated by a surge in federal executions ordered by the outgoing Trump administration.  The USA remains the only country in the Americas to execute people.

The number of known death sentences handed down has also fallen from 2,307 to 1,477 although some of this reduction appears to be due to delays in proceedings in response to the pandemic.

18 countries are known to have carried out executions in 2020, a reduction of 2 since 2019.  Chad and the US state of Colorado abolished the death penalty and Kazakhstan committed to its abolition. On the other hand executions were resumed in India, Qatar, Oman and Taiwan.

Some of the more disturbing trends in 2020 included the following:

  • The Trump administration executed 10 people at the federal level in less than six months
  • China used the death penalty to crack down on offences related to Covid-19 prevention efforts
  • In some countries, including the USA, defence lawyers said that they had been unable to meet clients face to face because of Covid restrictions.

Asia-Pacific countries were notable for imposing death sentences for crimes not involving intentional killing, which is in violation of international law. This included drug offences in China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam, corruption in China and Viet Nam and for blasphemy in Pakistan. In the Maldives five people under the age of 18 at the time of their offences remain under sentence of death.

Nevertheless the trend remains positive. 144 countries have now abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.  123 countries supported the UN General Assembly’s call for a moratorium on executions.  In the USA the state of Virginia recently became the first southern state to abolish the death penalty and several bills to abolish it at federal level are pending before Congress.

Amnesty continues to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances and will continue to campaign until the death penalty is abolished everywhere for good.


We attach this month’s death penalty report thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it. Note that apart from a small item, China does not feature despite being the world’s largest executioner of its people. Details are a state secret.


John Glen, the MP for Salisbury, has been accused by the ex-leader of his party of ‘kowtowing’ to China

This accusation was made in the Mail on Sunday, a Conservative supporting tabloid paper, in an article on 24 October 2020.  Mr Glen, a Treasury Minister, gave a speech at an event organised by the 48 Group Club which was set up to promote Sino-British relations.  Mr Glen is alleged to have said that ‘Britain and China are natural partners and that the two sides have broad prospects for cooperation in financial services and the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative.’ [No text of the speech is available on the 48 Group Club’s website or on the Treasury site.]

Pursuing increased commercial contact and encouraging greater trade was a creditable endeavour.  Greater  understanding was always to be supported and many of the 500 or so individuals who are members of the Club are likely to have had that in mind when joining.

But since Xi Jinping came to power, things have changed markedly.  China has become a repressive state with a catalogue of infringements against international norms.  It’s justice system is plagued by unfair trials and the use of torture.  Repression of whole areas of the country including Tibet and Xinjiang is severe.  The Government continues to harass, intimidate and prosecute human right defenders.  All media and the internet are rigorously censored.  There is little religious freedom with churches, mosques and temples destroyed on government orders.  China executes more of its citizens than the rest of the world combined.

Over the past year, attention has focused on the treatment of Uighurs, a million of whom are incarcerated in so-called training establishments which nevertheless are surrounded by high walls and watchtowers and are closed to outside observers.  Recently, concern has been expressed at the use of forced labour to produce cotton and western companies are being urged to ensure cotton produced using such labour is not used in their products.

In July a book was published by Clive Hamilton and Mareika Ohlberg Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party is Reshaping the World’ (One World Press) which claims that the 48 Group Club is a hub ‘through which Beijing grooms Britain’s elites’.  Looking into the group does seem to reveal some curious issues.  It claims many members of the political establishment some of whom say they have no knowledge of joining.  Who funds them is not explained on their website.

48 Group is a hub ‘through which Beijing grooms Britain’s elites’ book claims

Mr Glen cannot claim ignorance of the appalling human rights situation in China since many members of the Salisbury Amnesty group have written to him on many occasions.  He will be aware of the concerns about China’s increasing bellicose actions against Taiwan and border conflict with India.  China has reneged on the Hong Kong agreement and is tightening its grip on the state.  However, we know from the They Work for you site that Mr Glen ‘generally voted against laws to promote equality and human rights’.  Many countries are beginning to review their relations with the country in view of the policies of the communist regime and the threats they pose.

Mr Duncan Smith claims that the speech was written for him which, as it does not seem to have been published or made available, we cannot know.  It does suggest however, that the government is anxious to press on with closer commercial contacts with China despite the increasing risks and despite the appalling human rights situation there.  It is perhaps an inevitable result of the Brexit decision (supported by Mr Glen) and the shock that will give to the economy: we must seek business where we may and not be too squeamish about with whom.

That may be so, but for Mr Glen allegedly to praise President Xi, as the Mail on Sunday claims, to a suspect lobbying organisation, raises many uncomfortable questions.

Sources: Mail on Line [accessed 15 December 2020]; Endole; Daily Express; upnewsinfo.com; Amnesty International.  Sites searched but with no reference to the speech: Salisbury Journal; Treasury; John Glen MP’s website [all accessed 18 December 2020]


Newspaper exposes an extraordinary secret deal made between Switzerland and China

Switzerland is a country which has seldom appeared on this site.  It has an image of being a peaceful, civilised country with a close attachment to laws and rules.  Indeed it is something of an example to the rest of the world having avoided wars for centuries.  It never joined the EU.  Several human rights based organisations are based in Geneva.  The only thing said against it is the secret nature of its banking system which enables billions of dollars to be secreted away out of sight of the host country.

So it has come of something of a shock to discover that it has signed a secret deal with China to facilitate the repatriation of Chinese nationals back to that country.  Readmission agreements as they are called are common and Switzerland itself has around 60 of them including one with the UK.  These are published or otherwise available and the personnel involved have to be validated by both countries.  Not so in the case of China.

The Swiss agreement allows officers from the Ministry of Public Security, which is implicated in widespread, systematic and wide-ranging human rights abuses, free and secret access to the country.  Their agents are accused of crimes against humanity.  Yet they roam free in Switzerland carrying out unsupervised interviews and operations in their attempts to track down Chinese nationals and repatriate them to China.  The Swiss do not check on their activities or know who is being sent back.  Of those who have been sent back, their whereabouts are unknown.

Details of this extraordinary story was revealed by the newspaper NZZ amSonntag in August and a fuller story has appeared in Safeguard Defenders.   It was kept secret it has been claimed, because it was ‘an administrative agreement’.  Now that some Swiss parliamentarians have become aware of it, how long it will last we shall have to see.  But it seems to be another example of some western countries craven attitude towards the Chinese despite increasing knowledge of their multiple human rights abuses.

Sources: Swiss Info.ch; Safeguard Defenders; Guardian; NZZ amSonntag


China’s persecution of the Uighurs continues unabated

Two or so years ago, we had not heard of the Uighurs but since then, more and more evidence has emerged about what has become arguably the world’s worst example of attempted cultural genocide.  In an editorial in the 17 October 2020 edition of the Economist, they suggest it is ‘the gravest example of a world-wide attack on human rights and a crime against humanity’.

Since 1989, the fate of the Uighurs has deteriorated markedly.  Around a million are incarcerated in what are claimed to be ‘vocational education and training centres.’  It is hard to think of other such centres around the world which feel the need to surround themselves with high concrete walls, coils of razor wire and watch towers.  Inside, they are forced to learn Chinese and Xi Jinping thought.  They are Sunni Muslims but if when asked ‘do you believe in God?’ they answer ‘yes’, they are beaten.  

According to the Economist, new evidence suggests that thousands of their children have been separated from their parents.  If they speak their own language they are punished.  Women are urged to marry Han Chinese men and receive rewards if they do.  Another tactic according to the BBC World Service, is placing a Chinese man inside their homes as ‘house guests’.  

The persecution of the Uighurs is now widely known around the world.  Initially, the Chinese denied the existence of the camps and then changed the story once some details became known.  Outsiders are not allowed in and few images have emerged except posed photographs and films produced by the government.  The lack of images has reduced the impact as people respond to images and footage – written reports and verbal testimony have much less impact. The wider issue of human rights is discussed by Amnesty and includes details of torture, attacks on human rights defenders, a legal system under control of the party and excessive use of surveillance. 

Lack of protest

One of the curious features of this scandal however is the lack of protest from other Muslim nations.  Why aren’t countries such as Indonesia, Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan making more of a fuss?  Turkey is closely related to the Uighurs ethnically and their Turkic languages are linked, but it too is silent.  

Part of the reason is that China has used its enormous wealth to silence criticism.  Countries such as Pakistan are dependent on the Belt and Road initiative and has received tens of billions in loans from China.  It has just finalised a new loan of $11bn.  Turkey is also part of the Belt and Road project and has just signed a $1bn loan.  At one time it was a critic and then it changed its opinion.  Saudi – hardly a country with clean hands itself – has aligned itself more closely with China following the Khashoggi murder.  Mohammed bin Salman is quoted as saying:

China has the right to carry out anti-terrorism measures and act against extremists for its own security BBC World Service 20 July 2020

Other Muslim countries are also reluctant to speak up because of loans and economic dependence on China.  Apparently, about the only exception is Malaysia because it is well developed and less reliant on China.  The Economist article rightly argues that the West must speak up and expose this most egregious example of human rights abuse possibly since the Second World War when nations said ‘never again’ after the holocaust.  It suggests China’s regime is not immune to shame – why else would it go to such lengths to hide its activities?  Western companies should ensure for example that the goods they source from China are not made using forced Uighur labour. 

The situation is bleak however.  Last week, China, along with Russia and Saudi Arabia, was elected to the UN’s Human rights Council.  Truly the fox is in the henhouse. 

The UK government has supported an EU statement on the issue. 

Why is there no concerted international action?

There are several reasons:

  • The region of China, Xinjiang, is remote and largely unknown outside China and is therefore in a real sense, out of sight and out of mind
  • The West’s increasing dependence economically on China is a factor.  We rely on the country for much of our manufactures and for keeping inflation down.  British and other politicians have been all too keen to put business and trade ahead of human rights
  • China is highly resistant to listen to any criticism of what it regards as its internal affairs and western politicians are all to happy to go along with this and are reluctant to confront Chinese sensitivities
  • There is no charismatic individual to champion their cause.  It needs an individual who can speak for the nation and with whom, people in the West can identify
  • The lack of film or video evidence other than snatched pictures of concrete walls
  • Covid-19 is a huge distraction and consumes masses of time leaving little for other causes
  • China has been careful not to commit crimes of actual genocide.  It is not murdering millions by starvation or other means.  The oppression is real but there is no extermination
  • The oppressed are Muslims and anti-Muslim feeling is widespread in the West which results in low sympathy.  As we have noted, other Muslim nations have failed to criticism China’s oppression of fellow Muslims (in fact some support it), so why should we? 

This all adds up to a dangerous situation.  China’s increasingly muscular approach to world affairs should be a lot more worrying than it appears to be.  Their attempts to militarise the South China Sea by building whole islands; their increasing levels of threats and intimidation towards Taiwan; aggression along the border with India and clamping down on Hong Kong are some of the recent actions the Beijing has engaged in.  Sooner or later, Western governments are going to have to face up to the Chinese threat to human rights and call its bluff. 

The Economist does have a note of optimism however saying that ‘its propaganda has grown less effective’ as more evidence comes to light. 

Sources:  BBC World Service; HRW; The Economist; Amnesty International.  Further background from China Human Rights Defenders

See also the Grant Liberty website for an item on the Uighurs

 


The worst human rights abusing nations set for seats on the UN’s Human Rights Council

The news that Saudi Arabia, Russia, Pakistan, Cuba and China are set to take seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council today has sent shock waves around the world.  How can it be that the world’s worst abusers of human rights get to be in a perfect position to frustrate the work of the UN?

China is the world’s largest executioner of its citizens the precise numbers being a state secret.  It is committing what amounts to cultural genocide with the Uighurs in Xinjiang.  Around a million are incarcerated for what is claimed are programmes of re-education.  Women are being forcibly sterilised.  It is hard at work trying to stifle freedoms in Hong Kong.  It’s activities in Tibet have drawn years of censure. Torture is common and many are held incommunicado.

Russia is another state with a dismal human rights record.  Here in Salisbury we have experienced months of

Bench in Salisbury where the Skripals were found. Pic: Salisbury Amnesty

disruption following the attempted murder of the Skripals.  There are no free elections in the country and it looks as though there was an attempt on the life of opposition leader Navalny with Novichok.  Many journalists have been murdered, simply gunned down in the street.

Freedom of association is severely restricted.  Torture and mistreatment are common. Human rights defenders and NGOs are targeted.  Corruption is on a massive scale aided and abetted by the City of London.

Saudi Arabia is almost in a league of its own.  We have featured on these pages for many years the continuing bombing of civilians and civilian targets in Yemen and recently we have noted the disgraceful decision by the UK government to resume arms sales to the country.  Torture is common, and they are one of the world’s worst executioners often in public displays of barbarity.  Women’s rights are highly restricted.

These countries, under their despotic and dictatorial leaders, are simply not fit to be on a council for human rights.  They have no intention of changing their laws and systems to improve matters, indeed it can be argued that all three are getting steadily worse.

The Council is supposed to ensure that all people know their rights and are treated fairly.  It is supposed to ‘check what governments do to protect the rights of its people in their countries’.  How it can do this with countries like this sat on the governing body is a mystery.

 

 


Opposition shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy criticises government failure to condemn violence

Lisa Nandy MP said:

Britain is “absenting itself from the world stage” by refusing to show leadership over Hong Kong residents, confront China or condemn President Trump over his handling of the fallout from George Floyd’s killing, the shadow foreign secretary has warned.  Observer 7 June 2020

This statement was made during the violent events which have taken place across the US following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the continued unrest in Hong Kong over the concerns of the Chinese governments attempts to crack down on protest.

We will “lose all moral authority” to talk about police brutality in Hong Kong and elsewhere if we are not prepared to apply those standards equally to all parts of the world she said.  These comments were made following questions to Dominic Raab who declined to condemn the violence in either country.

It is becoming clearer by the day that the principle concern of the UK government is trade and nothing can stand in the way of that.  William Haigh tried to introduce a moral element to conservative party thinking when he was leader of the party but that seems to have been abandoned.  Now what matters is business and criticism of China or anyone else is not allowed it seems.  Similar reticence can be seen with other countries with dire human rights records such as Saudi, where a desire to sell arms trumps all moral considerations.

The Chinese Minister Chen Wen was interviewed on BBC’s World at One on 5 June and justified the imposition of tough new laws in Hong Kong are needed to create stability.  “Stability a prerequisite for prosperity” she said and that the new laws were only targeted at a handful of criminals, terrorists and those colluding with foreign forces.  This is far from the case and as Amnesty’s Regional Director Joshua Rosenzweig said the National Anthem law just passed is an “insult to free speech.”  Turning one’s back on the Chinese flag can result in up to 3 years in prison.

Sources: Observer; South China Morning Post; BBC; Amnesty International

 

 


The group’s monthly death penalty report is now available thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.  It contains link to the annual report produced by Amnesty International.  Note that China executes more of its citizens than any other country in the world but details and statistics are a state secret.

The group cannot meet or do any face to face campaigning at present for obvious reasons.  We hope to be back in action later in the year.

Report (Word)


The report by Amnesty on the use of the death penalty around the world in 2019 is now available

Update: 10 May  A report from India commenting on Amnesty’s report can be read here

There was a small decrease in executions in 2019 Amnesty International reports amounting to 657 executions in 20 countries, a decrease of 5% compared to 2018 (at least 690). This is the lowest number of executions that Amnesty International has recorded in at least a decade. At the end of 2019, 106 countries (a majority of the world’s states) had abolished the death penalty in law for all crimes, and 142 countries (more than two-thirds) had abolished the death penalty in law or practice.  The following are some of the key points taken from the full Amnesty report.  Looking at the picture overall, there has been slight progress around the world if we exclude China.

Most executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt – in that order.

China remained the world’s leading executioner – but the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown as this data is classified as a state secret.  The global figure of at least 657 excludes the thousands of executions believed to have been carried out in China.

Excluding China, 86% of all reported executions took place in just four countries – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt.

Bangladesh and Bahrain resumed executions last year, after a hiatus in 2018.  Amnesty International did not report any executions in Afghanistan, Taiwan and Thailand, despite having done so in 2018.

Executions in Iran fell slightly from at least 253 in 2018 to at least 251 in 2019.  Executions in Iraq almost doubled from at least 52 in 2018 to at least 100 in 2019, while Saudi Arabia executed a record number of people from 149 in 2018 to 184 in 2019.

Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Kazakhstan, Kenya and Zimbabwe either took positive steps or made pronouncements in 2019 which may lead to the abolition of the death penalty.

Barbados also removed the mandatory death penalty from its Constitution.   In the United States, the Governor of California established an official moratorium on executions in the US state with biggest death row population, and New Hampshire became the 21st US state to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.

Gambia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, the Russian Federation and Tajikistan continued to observe official moratoriums on executions.

At least 26,604 people were known to be under sentence of death globally at the end of 2019.

The following methods of execution were used across the world in 2019: beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.

At least 13 public executions were recorded in Iran. At least six people – four in Iran, one in Saudi Arabia and one in South Sudan – were executed for crimes that occurred when they were below 18 years of age.  People with mental or intellectual disabilities were under sentence of death in several countries, including Japan, Maldives, Pakistan and USA.

Death sentences were known to have been imposed after proceedings that did not meet international fair trial standards in countries including Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Viet Nam and Yemen.

Amnesty International 2019 Death Penalty report  (pdf)


The group cannot meet at present of course but if you would like to join then we hope to be back in action as soon as restrictions are lifted and it is safe to do so.  Keep and eye out on this page or on Twitter and Facebook for notice of our events.  Comments here are always welcome.


Arsenal football club embroiled in an embarrassing human rights dispute

The UK’s Arsenal football club became embroiled in an embarrassing and potentially expensive dispute with the Chinese authorities this week concerning the statement made by one of its footballers, Mesut Özil. The problem arose because Mesut, a Muslim, said on Instagram, concerning the plight of the Uighurs in China:

East Turkestan, the bleeding wound of the Ummah, resisting against the persecutors trying to separate them from their religion. They burn their Qurans. They shut down their mosques. They ban their schools. They kill their holy men. The men are forced into camps and their families are forced to live with Chinese men. The women are forced to marry Chinese men. But Muslims are silent. They won’t make a noise. They have abandoned them. Don’t they know that giving consent for persecution is persecution itself?

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