China Urged to End Illegal Practice of Enforced Disappearances

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Originally published by VOA on August 29, 2017

Ahead of Wednesday’s International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance, rights groups are calling on China to end its “self-legalized” practice of involuntary disappearances of human rights defenders and their family members, including Liu Xia, the widow of the late Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo.

China must urgently repeal its “residential surveillance at a designated location” and sign the International Convention for the Protection of Persons from Enforced Disappearance, they added.

Extensive use of forced disappearance

According to Chinese Human Rights Defenders , police under the Xi Jinping government have extensively applied to the Criminal Procedure Law’s article 73, passed in 2012, to legalize its forced disappearances of individuals, suspected of offenses related to national security or terrorism, for six months.

But the rights group’s Hong Kong-based researcher, Frances Eve, called the practice an abuse of power under a “fake legal structure.”

“It very much leaves the people who’ve been disappeared with no protection and at very great risk of being tortured because you don’t disappear someone to treat them nicely,” she said.

The group found that, during the 2015 lawyer crackdown alone, China put 17 rights lawyers and activists under residential surveillance, seven of whom have later come forward with torture allegations.

Judicial sovereignty?

The U.N. Human Rights Council had also documented 41 disappearance cases in China as of last July, which Chinese authorities have either refused to clarify or allow a country visit by the council’s working group, citing judicial sovereignty – an excuse rights activists say is hard to justify.

“It shows how the Chinese government is not cooperating with the U.N., how it’s hypocritical for it to sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council [and] how its membership pledge is empty words,” Eve added.

“The Chinese government deliberately tries to oppose to the universal values by creating a kind of force of opposition, that is something China [Chinese] versus western,” Kit Chan of China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said.

Both activists say China should honor its commitments to the council.

According to the groups, one extreme victim of forced disappearance is rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who has been in police custody since August of 2015 and denied any access to family members or a lawyer of the family’s choice. Wang is still awaiting trial.

His wife, Li Wenzu, has frequently been blocked outside the Supreme Court whenever she attempted to file a lawsuit against the judicial apparatus’ treatment of her husband, according to many of her Twitter posts.

Unlawful incarceration

Liu Xia is another extreme victim.

Diagnosed with depression and a heart condition, the widow has been under house arrest since 2010 after her husband was given the Nobel title.

And it’s believed China has not ended her home incarceration even after the country’s only Nobel peace award winner died of liver cancer while in police custody last month.

According to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy, Liu Xia hasn’t returned to her apartment in Beijing as of early Tuesday afternoon, making it unlikely that she will be able to mourn her husband from home on the seventh-week following his death.

Many Chinese believe it takes at least seven weeks, or 49 days, for the spirit of the deceased to travel to its next life of rebirth.

Mourning of Liu Xiaobo banned

The statement added that six dissidents in China have been warned by state police not to organize any 49-day mourning services for the deceased democracy activist, although his supporters outside of China continued to take to social media to pay tribute to him.

While being out of reach to her relatives and friends, the widow was recently seen in a 35-second-long video clip posted on Twitter last Sunday, in which she announced with excitement that she was getting ready to see a movie and enjoy fancy food, with only her silhouette shown against a bright garden.

An unnamed man, however, was seemingly heard in the background, telling her what to say next.

Propaganda video?

Her high-running emotions, however, were in contrast to the gloomy mood exhibited in her recent hand-drawings – a tree standing tall and a man’s shadow, posted by her close friend Liao Yiwu on Twitter over the weekend.

While refusing to disclose how he got hold of her, Liao, who is based in Germany, said Liu’s drawings speak her true mind.

He urged supporters to have faith in Liu, who he hopes will soon be set free.

“It helps if government of Western countries continue to pressure [China] into releasing her. Of course, out of its own consciousness, the media’s continued coverage of her is also important for keeping her in the public’s memory, although it may not directly facilitate her release,” Liao told VOA.

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