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No One is Safe Under Authoritarian China

  • 07 Jun, 2024
  • Admin

No One is Safe under Authoritarian China: A New Report Finds

On April 15, 2024, Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), a coalition of Chinese and international human rights non-governmental organizations, released its annual report, If I Disobey, My Family Will Suffer. This report specifically focuses on the intimidation and punishments inflicted on the families of human rights defenders in China. The report further delves into the five patterns of collective punishment employed by Chinese authorities against the families of human rights defenders in 2023. Such as abuse of the rights of defenders’ children, criminal proceedings against defenders’ family members, and obstructing families’ communication with overseas activists. Around 15 human rights defenders’ families’ cases were explored in this report. There were numerous cases where even young children of human rights defenders were not spared. For instance, He Fangmei, who is a staunch advocate of vaccine safety and women human rights defenders, disappeared for three months after she protested in front of a local government office in Huixian, Xinxiang, Henan Province, on October 9, 2020. Fangmei and her six-year-old son and four-year-old daughter were put in the Henan Xinxiang Gongji Psychiatric Hospital. At the time of her arrest, she was five months pregnant. Fangmei’s family members were denied access to her three children, despite several appeals.

Another very disturbing case is that of Quanquan, the son of human rights lawyer Wang Qunazhang and his wife and activist Li Wenzu. The Chinese authorities have consistently denied and debarred Quanquan from getting admission to the school. The struggle began in 2016 when he was just a few years old and was denied admission to kindergarten, and this has gone on until now. In October 2023, after passing the interview and written test, Quanquan attended the school for one day, and later he was expelled from the school. In 2024, after attending the middle school in Guangdong Province for only 10 days, he was again thrown out of the school. The prevalence of collective punishment is, however, not limited to China. It is furthermore extensive and brutal in China-occupied nations such as Tibet and East Turkestan (Xinjiang). For instance, according to the Tibet Action Institute’s report, around one million Tibetan children aged six to eighteen were separated from their families and communities and were forced to live in Chinese government-run colonial boarding schools and preschools. The CHRD justifies the inclusion of Tibetan families’ experiences in their report because they believe that many of their parents may have objected in varying ways to authorities over the discrimination and persecution their communities face. However, in Tibet and East Turkestan, being born as a Tibetan or a Uyghur or being associated with Tibetan and Uyghur culture itself is a crime in the dictionary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP); hence, they are interned, separated, punished, and prosecuted in millions. According to the latest report released by the United States, 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, from 2017 to 2023, over one million Uyghurs and members of other predominantly Muslim minority groups were arbitrarily detained. The Chinese authorities have employed different coercive measures to compel human rights defenders to abstain from their activism. All these patterns of collective punishment towards their families were highlighted in the report.

The report infers from international human rights and international humanitarian law that collective punishment is prohibited, and it further argues that:

Separating parents from their children, such as detaining the children in psychiatric facilities or putting them for adoption without parental consent, or blocking parents from traveling abroad to unite with their children, is a clear violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which China ratified in 1992.

The report also highlights that in the name of maintaining “Stability,” the authorities have instrumentalized the National Security Law against political and religious dissidents, pro-democracy activists, human rights activists, and others. Not only this, the CCP has undermined Chinese law or the PRC Constitution without any remorse.

Different reports from well-established human rights watchdogs and institutes, such as the 2023 Annual Report: Human Rights Situation of Tibet (Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy), China’s Vast System of Colonial Boarding Schools Inside Tibet (Tibet Action Institute), and World Report 2024: Events of 2023 (Human Rights Watch), confirm the veracity and validity of the CHRD Report on the deteriorating human rights situation under authoritarian China.

Another similar report on the specific subject was published by Safeguard Defenders, a human rights organization based in Spain, Families in Fear: Collective Punishment in 21st-Century China, in December 2023. This report highlights six types of collective punishment employed inside China and argues that under Xi Jinping, the use of collective punishment has skyrocketed.

In short, the human rights situation under authoritarian China is worsening, and democratic governments around the world need to, as suggested by CHRD’s report, “enact legislation and create policies to identify and counteract the Chinese government’s use of transnational repression against human rights defenders and diaspora communities.”