Posts Tagged ‘China’


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?

Sport, money, human rights, politics brought together in one place


December 16th is the 50th anniversary of the abolition of the death penalty in the UK

At 8am on 13 August 1964, the last execution took place in the United Kingdom.  Two men: Gwynne Evans and Peter Allen were separately executed in Manchester and Liverpool.  The death penalty for murder was abolished in the following year 1965 and made permanent on 16 December 1969.  Northern Ireland followed in 1973 and the last hanging offence – treason – was abolished in 1998.  In the current climate however, the question has to be asked, how secure is this decision and will it last another 50 years without being repealed?

Many will remember some of the impassioned debates which took place at the time with concerns it would lead to a rise in the murder rate.  Indeed, the vicar of All Saints, Clapton in London, said at the time it would be a ‘wholesale license to kill’.  The police wanted to be armed if the bill was passed.  Despite its abolition, the homicide rate in the UK has remained reasonable static over many years.  The figures for the last 3 years for example are 721 (2016/17); 728 (2017/18) and 701 (2018/19).  (Source: Statistica).  

Amnesty is opposed the use of the death penalty for six reasons:

  1.  It is the ultimate denial of human rights and is contrary to the articles 3 and 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the right to life and the right not to be tortured or subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
  2.  It is irreversible.  Mistakes are made and cannot be rectified.
  3.  It does not deter.  This perhaps is the strongest case made for its continued use yet many studies show it simply is not true.  Violent crime rates are not significantly worse in US states which use the penalty compared to those who do not.
  4.  It is often used with unfair justice systems.  Confessions sometimes forcibly extracted are a feature.  Clive Stafford Smith’s book on a particular case in Florida is instructive.
  5.  It is often used in a discriminatory way and you are more likely to be executed if you are a member of a minority group or if you suffer from mental health problems.  It is also racially biased.
  6.  It is used as a political tool to execute people who are seen as a threat to the authorities.

World wide

There has been a decrease in the number of countries using the death penalty according the 2018 Amnesty Report on the subject.  690 people were executed in 2018 in 20 countries representing a 31% decrease on the previous year.  However, these statistics exclude China – the world’s largest executioner – but where the number of executions, which is known to be vast, is a state secret.  Belarus is the only country in Europe still to have the penalty and executed at least 4 people in 2018.

The five biggest countries which still execute its citizens are: China; Iran; Saudi Arabia; Viet Nam and Iraq.  78% of all executions take place in the last four countries in this list (with the caveat that the China figure is unknown).  It is possible China executes more of its citizens than the rest of the world put together.

The Salisbury group monitors cases around the world and produces a monthly report.

United Kingdom

There has been a noticeable increase in rhetoric around harsher prison sentences and a desire to lock more people up for longer.  The current UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel has made a number of speeches and wants to see longer sentences, more prisoners kept in prisons for longer and generally supports a tougher approach to criminal justice.  She has seemed to support the death penalty although she denies that this is so.  Nevertheless, she is a powerful and insistent supporter of tougher sentencing.

A Parliamentary Enquiry has warned that UK citizens are at risk of the death penalty in the US – or of being sent to Guantanamo Bay – under a fast-track data sharing deal signed by the Home Secretary, as the result of an agreement reached with Washington last month, when the details were kept secret. It is said that the deal will give police and intelligence agencies speedy access to electronic communications sent by terrorists, serious crime gangs and white-collar criminals.   The House of Lords Committee has criticised the ‘asymmetric’ nature of the arrangement, which gives the US far greater powers to target UK citizens than vice-versa, and claims have been made that the UK will not be able to obtain ‘credible assurances’ that extradited suspects will not face execution. (Source: The Independent.)

Among the public YouGov polls reveal a mixed desire for restoring the penalty which depends a lot on what type of murder is involved.  So for multiple murders for example, 57% are in favour and 33% against.  Murder of a child shows 53% for and 31% against.  The ‘all cases of murder’ figure is 45% against and 34% for.

For crime generally in the words of YouGov ‘Voters are united: criminals should be more harshly punished.’  In the general population, 70% believe that sentences are not harsh enough which rises to 87% for Conservative supporters.  Further analysis for gender, age, location and social grade reveals only small differences.  The major difference is between Remain and Leave voters in the Referendum to leave the European Union (Brexit).  The statistic for all cases of murder shows that 64% of Remain supporters oppose the death penalty in contrast to 30% of Leave supporters – around double.  The support figures are even more marked with 51% of Leave supporters in favour of the death penalty and only 19% of Remainers.

It seems therefore that in the UK population, vengeful policies for dealing with criminality and for reintroducing the death penalty for some types of murder are still quite strong.  A conservative MP and former minister, John Hayes, asked the government last year to reintroduce the penalty.

Government policy has long been that we will not grant extradition to foreign countries if there is a risk of the individual being executed.  This policy appeared to be weakened last year by the then Home Secretary Sajid Javid:

Sajid Javid, […] has caused controversy in September by indicating that the British government is prepared to waive its long-standing opposition to the use of capital punishment by foreign governments, in the case of two alleged jihadi terrorists originally from Britain.   He has agreed to provide the authorities in the United States with intelligence evidence to assist in the trials of the two men without asking for the usual assurances that any convictions would not lead to the death penalty being imposed.  Human rights champions have widely condemned this decision as compromising Britain’s principled opposition to capital punishment and as setting a dangerous precedent.  Others, however, claim the two men involved deserve whatever they get.  So was the Home Secretary’s decision right or wrong?  YouGov 24 July 2018

Taken together, with members of the public wanting the return of the death penalty for several types of murder and an increase in harsher sentences; a weakening in the policy of not supporting the extradition to countries which execute people, and a desire to abolish the Human Rights Act, the reintroduction of the death penalty – although unlikely – may not be impossible in this country.  With the Conservative government returned last week with an increased majority, things are by no means certain. That it survives as a wish in many people’s minds is a worrying fact.

Sources: YouGov; Statistica; The Independent; Guardian, Parliament.co.uk, Amnesty International


We always welcome new members and the best thing is to keep an eye on this site or on Facebook – Salisburyai – and make yourself known at an event we are organising.


We are pleased to post our minutes of the November meeting which discusses the things we have done recently and forthcoming activities.  If you are interested in joining the group, then the events list at the end is a good place to start.  You would be very welcome to come along and make yourself known.

November meeting minutes (Word)


The death penalty report for October – November is available thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.  One worrying item is the apparent willingness of the UK government to allow individuals to be sent to the USA with the risk of execution.

October/November report (Word)


No to the death penaltyThe current issue of the monthly death penalty report is now available thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.  A number of countries are featured including, as ever, the USA, and Japan which has executed several people recently.

Report (Word)


You may want to join a small group by writing one of the urgent actions featured in this report.  We have several members who do this in the privacy of their own hom


Attached is the monthly death penalty report prepared with thanks by group member Lesley.  It covers Egypt; Pakistan, India, Belarus and the USA.  Note, as always, that China does not feature as its death penalty statistics are a state secret.  They are believed to execute more people than the rest of the world combined.

January – February report (Word)

No to the death penalty


Attached is the current death penalty report thanks to group member Lesley for the work in compiling it.  Grim news on several fronts with Sri Lanka thinking of re-using the penalty.  China leads the world it is believed in the use of the penalty although details are a state secret.

On the issue of China, readers may like to read the website of the Chinese Human Rights Defenders which charts the systematic denial of human rights freedoms by the Chinese government.  Links to many human rights sites can be found at the bottom of this site.

Report – June/July (pdf)

 

 


Film reveals terrible state of Chinese justice system

UPDATE:  if you have arrived here having picked up a leaflet at the Poetika event in Salisbury this evening – welcome!

A small audience at the Arts Centre watched a documentary film hosted by the Salisbury group called Hooligan Sparrow set in China.  The story concerns the attempts by a lawyer Ye Haiyan to get a college principal and his assistant prosecuted for spending the night in a hotel with 6 underage girls.  They were likely to have escaped punishment because of the endemic corruption of the Chinese police and communist party.   Subsequently they gave $2000 dollars to the girls which made them prostitutes and thus made them the criminals under the Chinese system.

Ye was determined to bring them to justice and started with a simple protest outside the school.  The film then charts the subsequent events of harassment, violence and intimidation by the police, secret police and hired thugs.  Remarkably, much of this is filmed and we can see and hear the activities of the police engaged in the intimidation.  Ye ends up homeless having been evicted from flats and hotels.  Finally, she returns to her home village to live in some quite basic accommodation.  A most telling and sad scene shows her and her daughter sat on the roadside with all their possessions piled up unable to find anywhere to live.   This exact scene is recreated in an exhibition in Brooklyn Museum in New York.

Ai WeiWei in prison. Pic: Salisbury Amnesty

The exhibition was of work by Ai WeiWei, an artist who has also been intimidated, arrested and interrogated by the police on more than one occasion.  He has a degree of fame outside China which gives him a modest level of protection.  During one of his imprisonments, he was subject to close surveillance 24 hours a day, every day, including when going to the toilet.  This was recreated in an exhibition at the Royal Academy three years ago (pictured)

Ye certainly lived a colourful life and at one time worked in a brothel which is where she acquired the nickname ‘sparrow’. In order to raise awareness for HIV prevention, Ye lived the illegal life of a sex worker, distributing free condoms while claiming that they were government subsidies.

Much of the footage was shaky as the filming took place under extreme duress.  We hear threats to kill her or break her legs.  It is nonetheless riveting work and vividly brings to life the dire state of human rights in China.  The list of infringements of human rights in the country are too many to list here as this report from Amnesty shows:

The government continued to draft and enact new laws under the guise of “national security” that presented serious threats to human rights.  Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo died in custody.  Activists and human rights defenders were detained, prosecuted and sentenced on the basis of vague and overbroad charges such as “subverting state power” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.  Police detained human rights defenders outside formal detention facilities, sometimes incommunicado, for long periods, which posed additional risk of torture and other ill-treatment to the detainees.  Controls on the internet were strengthened. Repression of religious activities outside state-sanctioned churches increased.  Repression conducted under “anti-separatism” or “counter-terrorism” campaigns remained particularly severe in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and Tibetan-populated areas.  Freedom of expression in Hong Kong came under attack as the government used vague and overbroad charges to prosecute pro-democracy activists.  [extract] Amnesty Report 2017/18

Much western coverage of China speaks of its economic progress and remarkable growth.  It is the world’s second most powerful nation and its activities in the South China Sea is causing real concern.  Western politicians fawn over President Xi Jing Ping in the hope of business.  But this film shows a lonely woman seeking justice on behalf of six young girls, being subjected to violence, intimidation and threats by a range of state agents.  China does its best to shield its citizens from outside influence shutting out foreign web sites behind the ‘Great Firewall of China‘.  One is reminded of other countries which behaved like this notably, Soviet Russia, East Germany and Rumania.  Each crumbled and it was the activity of a single person which often started the collapse – the priest in Rumania for example.  It can be like a stone chipping a windscreen.

The question is therefore, quite how powerful is the communist party in China that it feels the need to intimidate and mistreat any who question it?

The film was made by Nanfu Wang.  Our thanks to group member Fiona for organising this event.


If you would like to join the local group you would be very welcome.  We are holding a stall in the market place on 23 June so come along and make yourself known.


A reminder that the film Hooligan Sparrow will be shown next Thursday 14 June at 7:30 pm.  This is FREE but there is a parting collection to help cover our rental and other costs.  It’s at the Salisbury Arts Centre in the White Room upstairs.  Tickets can be obtained from the front desk.


Showing of the film Hooligan Sparrow in June

We are pleased to be able to show the documentary film Hooligan Sparrow at the Arts Centre on Thursday June 14 starting at 7:30.  It will be free but it will be ticketed and we are currently exploring ways to get tickets.  There will be a parting collection to help cover our costs.

The film is set in China and the danger is palpable as intrepid young filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows maverick activist Ye Haiyan (a.k.a Hooligan Sparrow) and her band of colleagues to Hainan Province in southern China to protest the case of six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal.

Marked as ‘enemies of the state’, the activists are under constant government surveillance and face interrogation, harassment, and imprisonment.  Sparrow, who gained notoriety with her advocacy work for sex workers’ rights, continues to champion girls’ and women’s rights and arms herself with the power and reach of social media.

Filmmaker Wang becomes a target along with Sparrow, as she faces destroyed cameras and intimidation. Yet she bravely and tenaciously keeps shooting, guerrilla-style, with secret recording devices and hidden-camera glasses, and in the process, she exposes a startling number of undercover security agents on the streets.  Eventually, through smuggling footage out of the country, Wang is able tell the story of her journey with the extraordinary revolutionary Sparrow, her fellow activists, and their seemingly impossible battle for human rights.

(text taken from the website of the film)

Please keep an eye on this site and or on Twitter and Facebook (salisburyai) for details of how to get the tickets.   If you are interested in joining us this would be a good opportunity to make yourself known to a member of the group before or after the showing.