Human Rights Activists under Assault

In the last quarter of 2019, China’s treatment of human rights activists remained worrisome. On 17 October, Sophia Huang Xueqin, a prominent activist and independent journalist that played an important role in China’s #MeToo movement, was detained in Guangzhou after reporting on protests in Hong Kong. She was then transferred to ‘residential surveillance in a designated location’. On 15 November, the Swedish branch of PEN awarded a freedom of speech prize to Gui Minhai, a Chinese book publisher with Swedish citizenship who was kidnapped in Thailand in 2015 and is currently detained in China. The award to Gui not only drew criticism from the Chinese Embassy in Sweden and the Chinese government, but also resulted in China cancelling a trade visit to Stockholm in December. On 20 November, Simon Cheng, a Hong Kong citizen previously employed by the British Consulate in Hong Kong, made headlines all over the world by claiming that he was tortured during his 15-day detention in China in August. Following his allegations, the Chinese government released Cheng’s video confession of soliciting prostitution in Shenzhen, which Cheng denies, contending that his confession was extracted under duress. On a more positive note, at the end of November, Liu Shaoming, a veteran labour activist, was released from jail, having served a sentence of four years and a half for ‘inciting subversion of state power’. However, on 3 December, the Chinese authorities arrested Tan Yongpei, an outspoken human rights lawyer previously detained in Nanning, on the same charge. Two weeks later, He Linxia, who had published books deemed inappropriate by the Chinese government, was sentenced to ten years in prison for corruption. Finally, on 17 December, labour activist Chen Weixiang and two associates were detained on unknown charges. NLiu


(Source: BBC; China Labour Bulletin; CNN; Hong Kong Free Press; Radio Free Asia 1; Radio Free Asia 2; South China Morning Post; State Council Information Office; SupChina)

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