By Nathan VanderKlippe
Amnesty note: On August 23 Nathan VanderKlippe called Amnesty in Toronto to contact a member of the Uighur Society in Canada. A few minutes later he was arrested.
Late in the evening of Aug. 23, I drove a rented car to Elishku township in Yarkand County. Within 15 minutes of arrival, police began to arrive. Local villagers, I believe, had reported my presence. I was escorted to a local government office, where I was questioned by the local party secretary, police chief, officials from the propaganda department and local waiban, as well as agents from the Ministry of State Security. When police demanded to look through my photographs, I called my contact at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who after a lengthy phone call said the local officials would only heed his intervention if he sent a formal document. As it was midnight by this time, this was not a feasible option. My MFA contact, however, said the local officials had agreed to only look at and not delete photographs. I showed them my pictures. They did not delete any, largely because there were none to delete.
By Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
“Do you think the Chinese government will release him now?” In the piercing cold of a December night in Oslo, the same question kept coming. I had just attended the ceremony to award the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned human rights advocate, literary critic, and thorn in the side of the Chinese government.
Vehemently denounced by the Chinese government as “a farce”, the ceremony had movingly paid tribute to that simple truth: that words are not crimes. Freedom of expression, as Liu Xiaobo had himself told the court a year earlier, was “the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth.” The court sentenced him to 11 years behind bars.
While I was buoyed by the homage the world was paying to his courage, I also knew that the real battle was only beginning: would the international community exert enough pressure on the Chinese authorities to sway them to release Liu Xiaobo?
Responding to the news that Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo has passed away, Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International commented:
“Today we grieve the loss of a giant of human rights. Liu Xiaobo was a man of fierce intellect, principle, wit and above all humanity.
“For decades, he fought tirelessly to advance human rights and fundamental freedoms in China. He did so in the face of the most relentless and often brutal opposition from the Chinese government. Time and again they tried to silence him, and time and again they failed. Despite enduring years of persecution, suppression and imprisonment, Liu Xiaobo continued to fight for his convictions.
“Although he has passed, everything he stood for still endures. The greatest tribute we can now pay him is to continue the struggle for human rights in China and recognize the powerful legacy he leaves behind. Thanks to Liu Xiaobo, millions of people in China and across the world have been inspired to stand up for freedom and justice in the face of oppression.
The Chinese authorities are demonstrating new-depths of cruelty by preventing Liu Xiaobo from leaving the country to receive urgent medical treatment for his late-stage liver cancer, Amnesty International said.
On Wednesday, the authorities announced medical experts from Germany and the US will be invited to China to assist with the treatment of the Nobel Peace Prize winner. The move appears in part an attempt to limit international criticism, as the authorities continue to refuse to grant Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia’s wish to travel abroad to receive treatment.
“Time is running out for Liu Xiaobo. It is not too late for the authorities to end this cruel farce. They must let Liu Xiaobo and his wife, Liu Xia, travel abroad to get the medical treatment he so desperately needs,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
The pro-democracy activist and former university lecturer was placed on medical parole last Monday and transferred to a hospital in Shenyang municipality in north-east China. His wife Liu Xia was able to reunite with him last week. The authorities’ claim that Liu Xiaobo is too ill to travel is disputed by his family.
Hong Kong’s political leaders must show they are prepared to fiercely resist pressure from President Xi Jinping to further erode human rights in the city, Amnesty International said, as the Chinese President arrived to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China.
“Hong Kong’s political leaders need to step up and show they won’t bend to Beijing’s pressure. They must be prepared to defend the city’s cherished human rights and freedoms and the rule of law that were guaranteed as part of the handover deal,” said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.
Carrie Lam, who will be sworn in as Hong Kong’s new chief executive this weekend, has so far shown no appetite to stand up to Beijing when it comes to human rights.
There are reports banners critical of the Chinese government will be removed by police during President’s Xi visit to avoid causing “embarrassment”.
Ilham Tohti was selected by a jury of 10 global Human Rights organizations (See list below). The Award is given to Human Rights Defenders who have shown deep commitment and face great personal risk. The aim of the award is to provide protection through international recognition. Strongly supported by the City of Geneva, the Award will be presented on Oct. 11th.
Ilham Tohti (China)
A renowned Uyghur intellectual in China, Ilham Tohti has worked for two decades to foster dialogue and understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. He has rejected separatism and violence, and sought reconciliation based on a respect for Uyghur culture, which has been subject to religious, cultural and political repression in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
By William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International. On twitter @williamnee
26 years have passed since the tragic days in 1989 when thousands of peaceful pro-democracy protesters were brutally repressed in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
But even though the tanks have long left the city’s infamous square, President Xi Jinping, appears as determined to quash anyone perceived as challenging the Communist Party’s hegemony.
When President Xi took office in late 2012, he declared power would be put “in a cage”, but it is the independently minded academics, journalists, lawyers, and rights activists that have been thrown in jail.
We are witnessing one of the darkest periods for freedom of expression in China since the bloodshed of 1989.