News / Asia

    China Arrests Activist for Seeking Public Comment in Rights Report

    U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Uzra Zeya (L) speaks to reporters at a news briefing on the latest U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing, August 2013.
    U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Uzra Zeya (L) speaks to reporters at a news briefing on the latest U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing, August 2013.
    VOA News
    Later this month, China's human rights record comes under United Nations scrutiny as part of the U.N.’s regular review of members' rights policies. This week, Chinese authorities said they had arrested a prominent activist who has pressed the government to allow the public to contribute to the U.N. report.

    Cao Shunli, a prominent human rights petitioner, has been missing since September 14, when police barred her from boarding a plane to Geneva. Cao was on her way to a human rights meeting in the Swiss city.

    This week, authorities notified Cao’s fellow activists that she was formally arrested Saturday.

    “She is now detained at Beijing’s Number One Detention Center, but we still don’t know what crime she is accused of,” said Zhou Li, who has been participating in sit-ins in front of China’s Foreign Ministry since mid-June together with Cao and dozens of other petitioners.

    Zhou said Cao’s arrest is unwarranted because her actions always have been according to the law.

    “I did not expect that this could happen to her,” said Zhou. “Cao Shunli is a very fair and moderate person, she is not drastic in her actions, and she exercises her rights in accordance with the Chinese law.”

    Petitioning for human rights

    Cao and other like-minded activists have been petitioning authorities to be more open about human rights abuses in China, and allow grassroots organizations to help draft the country’s policy documents on human rights.

    Zhou said the group’s efforts started after the Olympic Games in 2008, when China announced it would detail the human rights situation in a document called the National Human Rights Action Plan.

    “The idea was to create a group that could represent the socially vulnerable people in China, and common people could participate in the drafting of the National Human Rights Action Plan,” said Zhou.

    But all attempts to submit their policy recommendations failed.

    “The National Human Rights Action Plan was edited by the Foreign Ministry together with the State Council Information Office,” said Zhou. “We first went to the Foreign Ministry and they said we needed to go to the State Council Information Office. But at the State Council Information office they would say that this was a matter pertinent to the Foreign Ministry."

    Since June of this year, the group has been asking the Foreign Ministry to have a say in the U.N. Universal Periodic Review, which China is presenting to fellow U.N. Members on October 22.

    The U.N. expects every member to detail its human rights record every four years, and encourages the participation of civil society in drafting the review.

    After Cao and her fellow activists filed for information disclosure about the review, a court in Beijing denied the request. It said that the document was related to China’s national defense and foreign affairs, and was off limits to citizens.

    The ruling said that the Universal Periodic Review is a “diplomatic action” that cannot be subjected to a suit waged by citizens.

    Tang Jitian, a human rights lawyer based in Beijing, said such reasoning is unacceptable. "The state’s power of diplomacy are entrusted from the people, it is the people who give the state the authority to engage in diplomacy,” said Tang.

    Cracking down on dissent

    Tang said monitoring of the government’s actions is especially important in China, where the government is not democratic and thus its authority stands on uncertain grounds.

    In the past few months, Tang and other lawyers have been grouping themselves into a “human rights lawyer league,” to better coordinate their legal cases as well as protect themselves from the crackdown against activists that seems to have intensified in recent months.

    Human Rights Watch estimated that since February, the Chinese government has arbitrarily detained at least 56 activists.

    Authorities have also stepped up their efforts to control online speech by issuing harsh penalties against people who spread rumors online.

    Tang said that although the government remains repressive against free speech, a lot has changed in recent years.

    “Now the government is just one factor in China’s society, and I don’t think it’s even the most important factor anymore,” said Tang.

    People are more aware of their rights, Tang added, and are willing to take action to protect them.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.