Radio Free Asia: Frustration Mounts Over China’s Rights Record Ahead of G20 Summit

Radio Free Asia

Rights groups are calling on world leaders to put more pressure on the ruling Chinese Communist Party over its human rights record ahead of the G20 leadership summit in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

The Group of Twenty heads of government should call on China to end its relentless crackdown on Chinese activist groups, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in statement on its website.

China will host the annual G20 meeting in Hangzhou on Sept. 4-5, and has already launched a massive security clampdown in the city, packing residents off on vacation, slapping tight restrictions on all road traffic, and shuttering businesses.

Rights activists and petitioners are being held under arbitrary detention ahead of the event, to prevent them from trying to use it highlight grievances, activists have told RFA.

“China’s disregard for activist groups is evident in its crackdown at home and the severe restrictions it placed on them at the G20 summit,” HRW China director Sophie Richardson said.

Nine representatives from China’s Tibetan, Uyghur and Han
ethnic groups visit the White House to discuss religious
freedom in China with U.S. National Security Advisor Susan
Rice in Washington, Aug. 30, 2016. Photo courtesy of Bob Fu

“It’s important for G20 leaders to publicly and privately call out China for its abusive practices, or share the blame for the sorry treatment of activists around the summit,” she said.

U.S.-based group Human Rights First called on U.S. President Obama to “make clear” to President Xi Jinping that the U.S. government supports independent civil society organizations focused on advancing human rights, in the wake of a massive nationwide clampdown on civil society and human rights attorneys.

Obama should call for the release of detained and imprisoned activists and an end to the arrests and trials of human rights lawyers on pretextual charges such as “subverting state power, the group said.

“President Obama has made a strong case during his presidency that human rights is an important component of national security,” the group said in a statement ahead of the summit.

“The G20 summit is an opportunity to make clear—to China and to all the G20 nations—that continued economic and other forms of cooperation with the U.S. government depends on their willingness to do the same,” it said.

Greater pressure on Beijing
A Hebei-based rights activist and citizen journalist who gave only her surname Ding welcome the calls for greater pressure on Beijing.

“We are grateful for the concern … of the international community over human rights in China,” Ding said. “But the current government won’t pay much attention to what other people say; they are shameless.”

“The effectiveness of such help is minimal, and the human rights situation has continued to get worse in the past couple of years, in spite of pressure from the international community,” she said.

The U.S.-based non-profit website China Change agreed, saying the Obama administration has failed to press for any meaningful change in China at all.

“All evidence considered, we believe that the root of the problem is that the U. S. does not have a human rights policy toward China,” the website said in an editorial.

“That’s right: we are not urging the U. S. to reconsider its human rights policy toward China; we are urging it to actually get one,” it said, accusing U.S. officials of making “pro forma statements” before moving on to other matters.

“Human rights cannot be treated as a stand-alone issue any more,” it said.

Liu Feiyue incommunicado

Meanwhile, in the central province of Hubei, activists said Liu Feiyue, founder of the Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch website, was incommunicado and likely detained by police on Wednesday.

Calls to Liu and his wife rang unanswered on Wednesday, while an officer who answered the phone at his local Dongcheng police station declined to comment.

“Are you asking me whether Liu Feiyue is being held here at this police station?” the officer said, before adding: “I don’t know.”

One of the website’s employees said Liu had tweeted before disappearing that the Suizhou state security police were looking for him, suggesting that he is now in their custody somewhere.

“[It’s the] state security police, but they certainly won’t admit it,” the employee said. “Before Liu Feiyue went missing, he said they were looking for him.”

“This is a sensitive time [ahead of the G20], and they’ll probably release him when it’s over,” he said. “They’ve always done that before.”

“At a time of huge political pressure, we just have to work as normal,” he said. “There are a large number of stories to publish.”

Liu’s disappearance came as President Obama’s national security advisor Susan Rice met with Chinese human rights advocates to discuss issues related to human rights, including religious freedom, in China.

“The discussion focused on concerns regarding the deterioration of conditions inside China for both human rights generally and religious freedom specifically, as well as the participants’ recommendations regarding ways the United States can constructively encourage improvements in the situation,” the White House said in a statement on Wednesday.

It said activists had raised concerns over the removal of crosses from churches, demolition of houses of worship, and restrictions on the observance of Ramadan and other Muslim practices, as well as the continued crackdown on human rights lawyers and the importance of preserving space for civil society.

Reported by Xin Lin and Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Ho Shan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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