At a strategic consultation in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the National Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders adopted its 2024 Action Plan to enhance support for defenders amid shrinking civic space and heightened State focus on terrorism.
(Geneva) – China must immediately cease its coordinated targeting of human rights defenders, said ISHR today as reports emerged as to the detention and disappearance of over 50 human rights lawyers and defenders.
‘The scale and speed with which this has been carried out marks a new extreme in the crackdown on civil society under the Xi administration,’ said Sarah M. Brooks, ISHR’s East Asia programme manager and advocate.
‘Authorities must identify those defenders who have been detained or disappeared, release all who have been detained arbitrarily, and investigate those authorities who are responsible. In light of concerns about the impact of new and pending legislation on human rights in the country, this is a clear and disturbing signal that the government feels it can act with impunity to quash criticism and dissent,’ Ms Brooks said.
Earlier this week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein issued a statement expressing concern about the human rights implications of China’s new National Security Law, adopted by the National People’s Congress on 1 July. Because of its broad scope and vague definitions, Zeid noted that it ‘leaves the door wide open to further restrictions on the rights and freedom of Chinese citizens’. ISHR has previously expressed similar concerns regarding China’s draft anti-terrorism law, which seriously restricts the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
The Chinese government’s response to the High Commissioner was brief and to the point. Rather than engage on the issue as a matter of substance, or welcome ongoing dialogue with international experts on the issue, on 9 July spokesperson Hua Chunying instead accused the High Commissioner of making ‘groundless accusations’ that demonstrated a ‘lack of professionalism’ and constituted an ‘interference in China’s domestic affairs’. News media reporting on the story cited an expert who claimed that Zeid may have sought to ‘damage China’s international image’. This, despite earlier assurances by the government to ‘support the [High Commissioner] in activities performing his duty’.
As though to make the point even more clear, the Chinese government embarked that same day on a roundup of human rights defense lawyers in Beijing, beginning with Wang Yu. In response to her disappearance, over one hundred concerned lawyers inside the country signed an open letter demanding her release and accountability for authorities.
In the two days since, human rights groups have documented over four dozen human rights defenders who, as of this writing, have disappeared. Some have been taken away by the authorities, while it is possible others may have been forced into hiding. ISHR continues to work with its partners to track the cases.
ISHR and 90+ civil society organisations call on European States to revisit Palestinian/Israeli NGO funding cuts, stressing vital human rights roles, policy alignment needs, and debunking baseless terror claims.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights concluded its 77th Ordinary Session held in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania from 20 October to 9 November 2023. During the session, the Commission renewed its Bureau. It received solemn declarations from elected and re-elected members and launched several documents and newsletters, among others.