Category Archives: Legal & Judial

Chinese Exchange Student Seeks Political Asylum After Public Denunciation of Xi

A Chinese exchange student studying on the democratic island of Taiwan has sought political asylum after live-streaming criticism of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s removal of presidential term-limits last year.

Li Jiabao, 21, made the move after criticizing constitutional changes made by Xi in March 2018 that effectively allow him to rule indefinitely.

“I am in a lot of danger right now, so I am hoping that the Taiwan government will grant me political asylum,” he said. “I also call on the Taiwan government to pass the refugee bill as soon as possible.”

He said he acquired his views by bypassing the complex system of blocks, filters and human censorship known as China’s Great Firewall, and viewing content on social media sites like Twitter and YouTube, which are banned to most Chinese internet users.

“Xi Jinping is taking this country faster and faster in a backwards direction,” Li told RFA, describing himself as “deeply infected” by democratic politics in Taiwan.

“If Taiwan can implement democracy and direct elections, then why can’t China?” he said. “I decided to come out in open opposition to the Communist Party, to dictatorship and to Xi Jinping.”

Li, who hails from the eastern Chinese province of Shandong but who is studying at Taiwan’s Chia Nan University of Pharmacy and Science in Tainan city, used Periscope to make the comments.

He also hit out at a nationwide police operation targeting Chinese human rights lawyers since July 2015, and said he hopes China can one day take the path of democratic reform, as Taiwan once did.

“When Xi Jinping succeeded in eliminating his political rival [jailed former Chongqing party chief] Bo Xilai in 2012, he succeeded in becoming the most powerful politician in China in one step,” Li said.

“Like many other ordinary people, I once had a hankering for the monarchy,” he said.

But he compared China under Xi to an imperial tyranny presiding over an Orwellian dystopia.

He said the “martyrs” who died during the Tiananmen massacre that ended the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement were all seeking freedom.

Living in fear

While the administration of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) President Tsai Ing-wen is proud of its human rights record, Taiwan, which has a refugee law in the pipeline, is traditionally wary of granting political asylum to Chinese nationals for fear of triggering a flood of applications.

Li, who has received furious online abuse after his live-streaming session, said he now lives in fear of being kidnapped by Chinese agents operating in Taiwan, and unofficially repatriated to face punishment.

“It’s even possible that I could pay for this with my life,” he said. “I wouldn’t regret it though, because that’s what I chose to do.”

Li’s current exchange program runs out in July, but he is already under huge pressure from the authorities in China, via his friends and classmates, to go home earlier.

His public criticisms of Xi come amid a very public debate in Taiwan over the Chinese president’s claim that the island should be “unified” with the People’s Republic of China, which has never controlled Taiwan.

But Li takes a view regarded as criminal by Beijing; namely that the island is a totally separate country from China.

“Their two systems are fundamentally different,” he said. “There are cultural differences that spring from the difference between an authoritarian regime and democratic politics.”

“Systemically and culturally, Taiwan is already a totally different country from China,” he said.

Rejecting unification

President Tsai rejected calls from Xi on Jan. 2 to move towards “unification,” saying that Taiwan’s 23 million people have no wish to give up their sovereignty, and that China should first move towards a democratic system.

In the statement, titled “Letter to our Taiwan compatriots,” Xi was insistent that China must be “unified,” saying that China would make no promises not to use military force to annex the island.

But a recent opinion poll found that more than 80 percent of Taiwanese would reject Xi’s offer to rule the island via the “one country, two systems” model used for the former colonies of Hong Kong and Macau.

Taiwan was ruled as a Japanese colony in the 50 years prior to the end of World War II, but was handed back to the 1911 Republic of China under the Kuomintang (KMT) government as part of Tokyo’s post-war reparation deal.

The island began a transition to democracy following the death of Chiang Kai-shek’s son, President Chiang Ching-kuo, in January 1988, starting with direct elections to the legislature in the early 1990s and culminating in the first direct election of a president, Lee Teng-hui, in 1996.

Copyright (copyright) 1998-2016, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

Venezuela, Iran, Uighur Detentions in China among Issues Raised in US Rights Report

The U.S. State Department is painting a grim picture of violations and abuses in countries that already have dismal records in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018.

Venezuela

On Venezuela, the report cited extrajudicial killings, the stifling of free expression, and restrictions on political participation. It said the May 20, 2018 presidential vote that re-elected Nicolas Maduro was deeply flawed, adding that the vote was boycotted by the opposition and condemned by the international community. The State Department report also pointed to issues including pervasive corruption and impunity among all security forces and in the Maduro government; trafficking in persons; and the worst forms of child labor, which the government made minimal efforts to eliminate.

The situation on the ground is deteriorating. It’s so tragic. The humanitarian conditions there are just awful. You have people starving, can’t get medicine to the sick, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview in Houston.

Iran

On Iran, the report said the government’s human rights record remained extremely poor and worsened in several key areas. The high-profile case of Iranian attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh was featured in the report. Sotoudeh, who represents political prisoners and women that protested against the country’s compulsory hijab law, was arrested on June 13, 2018, on national security charges. She was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes.

We are outraged, said State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino in Tuesday’s briefing, This sentence is beyond barbaric.

The human rights report also pointed to issues including executions for crimes without fair trials; arbitrary killings and forced disappearance; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; systematic use of arbitrary detention and imprisonment; unlawful interference with privacy; severe restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet.

China

On China, the State Department’s human rights report said the government significantly intensified its campaign of mass detention of members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang). Authorities were reported to have arbitrarily detained 800,000 to possibly more than two million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other Muslims in internment camps designed to erase religious and ethnic identities, said the report.

Secretary Pompeo said China is “in a league of its own” in human rights violations.

Other issues include arbitrary detention by the Chinese government; physical attacks on and the criminal prosecution of journalists, lawyers, petitioners, and their family members; severe restrictions on religious freedom; the forcible return of asylum seekers to North Korea, where they have a well-founded fear of persecution; and official repression of the freedom of speech, religion, movement, association, and assembly in Tibet, according to the report.

China says it is running a deradicalization program and that the camps are vocational training centers to teach people about the law and the Mandarin language. Chinese authorities said Tuesday that the camps in Xinjiang will “gradually disappear” if a time arises when “society does not need them.”

Samuel Brownback, the U.S. ambassador for religious freedom, said Friday during a speech in Hong Kong that China’s detentions are not proportionate to any real threat it faces from extremism.

“China is not solving a terrorist problem by forcibly moving women, children, the elderly, and the highly educated intelligentsia into mass detention centers and internment camps. Instead, they are creating one,” he said.

U.S. lawmakers are pressuring the Trump administration to take stronger actions against China. The House Foreign Affairs Committee told Pompeo last week it “appears the administration has taken no meaningful action” on the matter.

Pompeo said the administration is considering sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for rights abuses against the Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Source: Voice of America

Venezuela, Iran, Uighur Detentions in China among Issues Raised in US Rights Report

The U.S. State Department is painting a grim picture of violations and abuses in countries that already have dismal records in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018.

Venezuela

On Venezuela, the report cited extrajudicial killings, the stifling of free expression, and restrictions on political participation. It said the May 20, 2018 presidential vote that re-elected Nicolas Maduro was deeply flawed, adding that the vote was boycotted by the opposition and condemned by the international community. The State Department report also pointed to issues including pervasive corruption and impunity among all security forces and in the Maduro government; trafficking in persons; and the worst forms of child labor, which the government made minimal efforts to eliminate.

The situation on the ground is deteriorating. It’s so tragic. The humanitarian conditions there are just awful. You have people starving, can’t get medicine to the sick, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview in Houston.

Iran

On Iran, the report said the government’s human rights record remained extremely poor and worsened in several key areas. The high-profile case of Iranian attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh was featured in the report. Sotoudeh, who represents political prisoners and women that protested against the country’s compulsory hijab law, was arrested on June 13, 2018, on national security charges. She was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes.

We are outraged, said State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino in Tuesday’s briefing, This sentence is beyond barbaric.

The human rights report also pointed to issues including executions for crimes without fair trials; arbitrary killings and forced disappearance; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; systematic use of arbitrary detention and imprisonment; unlawful interference with privacy; severe restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet.

China

On China, the State Department’s human rights report said the government significantly intensified its campaign of mass detention of members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang). Authorities were reported to have arbitrarily detained 800,000 to possibly more than two million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other Muslims in internment camps designed to erase religious and ethnic identities, said the report.

Secretary Pompeo said China is “in a league of its own” in human rights violations.

Other issues include arbitrary detention by the Chinese government; physical attacks on and the criminal prosecution of journalists, lawyers, petitioners, and their family members; severe restrictions on religious freedom; the forcible return of asylum seekers to North Korea, where they have a well-founded fear of persecution; and official repression of the freedom of speech, religion, movement, association, and assembly in Tibet, according to the report.

China says it is running a deradicalization program and that the camps are vocational training centers to teach people about the law and the Mandarin language. Chinese authorities said Tuesday that the camps in Xinjiang will “gradually disappear” if a time arises when “society does not need them.”

Samuel Brownback, the U.S. ambassador for religious freedom, said Friday during a speech in Hong Kong that China’s detentions are not proportionate to any real threat it faces from extremism.

“China is not solving a terrorist problem by forcibly moving women, children, the elderly, and the highly educated intelligentsia into mass detention centers and internment camps. Instead, they are creating one,” he said.

U.S. lawmakers are pressuring the Trump administration to take stronger actions against China. The House Foreign Affairs Committee told Pompeo last week it “appears the administration has taken no meaningful action” on the matter.

Pompeo said the administration is considering sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for rights abuses against the Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Source: Voice of America

Hammerhead Shark ‘Nursery’ Found Off Galapagos Islands

Researchers have found a new breeding ground for hammerhead sharks off the coast of Ecuador’s Galapagos archipelago.

The head of the team of researchers, Eduardo Espinosa, said the natural refuge off the island of Santa Cruz is home to about 20 of the sharks. The team managed to attach monitors to five of them.

“That site, where the babies spent two or three years, is important not only for the Galapagos but on a world scale, because it gives hope for the protection and conservation of a species,” Espinosa said.

The team hopes to monitor the sharks in an effort to protect both the predators and their environment. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature considers the hammerhead shark an endangered species. They are not particularly fertile reproducers, and combined with a demand for their fins in Asia, the species is vulnerable.

Marine biologist Alex Hearn of San Francisco University in Quito said researchers believed that the hammerheads gave birth along continental coasts, so the discovery of the island nursery opens new lines of study.

Source: Voice of America

Hammerhead Shark ‘Nursery’ Found Off Galapagos Islands

Researchers have found a new breeding ground for hammerhead sharks off the coast of Ecuador’s Galapagos archipelago.

The head of the team of researchers, Eduardo Espinosa, said the natural refuge off the island of Santa Cruz is home to about 20 of the sharks. The team managed to attach monitors to five of them.

“That site, where the babies spent two or three years, is important not only for the Galapagos but on a world scale, because it gives hope for the protection and conservation of a species,” Espinosa said.

The team hopes to monitor the sharks in an effort to protect both the predators and their environment. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature considers the hammerhead shark an endangered species. They are not particularly fertile reproducers, and combined with a demand for their fins in Asia, the species is vulnerable.

Marine biologist Alex Hearn of San Francisco University in Quito said researchers believed that the hammerheads gave birth along continental coasts, so the discovery of the island nursery opens new lines of study.

Source: Voice of America