China Is Spitting On Human Rights – If They Still Exist

Source: Gary Varvel

As President Xi wields his mighty sword over Chinese lands, scaring activists into submission, where is the international condemnation and more importantly, where do the violations end?

© Taylor Jones

© Taylor Jones

By now everyone should know the story of Lee Bo, a British Citizen who was the target of a political kidnapping whilst in Hong Kong, and the equally terrifying tale of Gui Minhai, a Swedish Citizen abducted from the Thai resort of Payyata, both for selling books critical of the Chinese government. There is a simple truth for these dissenting voices; both men are victims of a terrorist organisation seeking to illegitimately scare people into compliance with its despotic ideals. President Xi is cementing his commitment to obedience by simply making those who stand against him disappear, no matter where they are (national or international). State-Enforced Disappearances, defined by International Law as when the agents of a country take a person into custody whilst denying the detention or failing to disclose their whereabouts, now stretch from human rights lawyers, to academics, to business leaders. Such is the familiar nature of the event that the Chinese term for “lost contact” Shilian, is now commonplace slang for a government kidnap.

The Five Missing Booksellers. Source: HKFP

The Five Missing Booksellers. Source: HKFP

The perilous situations of Human Rights Lawyers are ramping up as the state crackdown amplifies. Mysterious evaporations and false convictions infect the legal profession, whilst state television labels them as “criminal gangs” in a pitiful attempt to degrade the righteous. Such intellectuals clearly pose such a threat to Xi, that they either must never be heard from again, or reconditioned to the point where they are simply incapable of being a threat to anything. The crackdown on lawyers is evidently an attempt to silence a group gifted at standing up to the government, whilst assisting in the protection of the vulnerable from authoritarian actions. Of course, it is only natural that such a despotic state would silence the “guardians of justice” first, since they are the ones most able to clearly articulate the issues internationally, whilst seeing through the lies and not falling for political spin emanating from the CCP. The symbolic falling of the honourable will certainly make the dissenting voices much quieter in the luxurious offices of the powerful.

Additionally, we need only look as far as Peter Dahlin, a Swedish Human Rights Activist, to see how forced and scripted confessions are used to parade “criminals” in front of the Chinese population; attempting to humiliate and vilify  the very people standing up for the populace. Such “confessions” are often the result of either threats or torture. For example, Peter Dahlin’s girlfriend, a Chinese national is also missing and no information on her whereabouts exists. It is not difficult to theorise that her safety could quite easily be hung over the head of Mr Dahlin, in order to make him say whatever is on the piece of paper you can see him reading off in the video above. With such strict control over the flow of information leaving the mainland, it is hard to obtain accurate reports about the level of torture within Chinese prisons. However, we are fortunate enough to have several brave men and women who do speak out about what truly occurs behind locked doors. One Amnesty International report detailed a multitude tortuous methods, for example how prisoners can be strapped to a board by their hands and chest, and then left dangling in the air, how they can be beaten by prison guards and how psychological abuse is commonplace. Additionally, the police and judges simply do not legitimately investigate claims of torture, whilst contrived confessions to whatever Beijing likes are accepted without question.

Some Chinese Torture Devices. Source: Amnesty International

Some Chinese Torture Devices. Source: Amnesty International

Many of these violations go unheard of within the closed walls of China, which has one of the most restrictive media and internets in the world. The concept of press freedom and protection for whistleblowers is certainly foreign in Beijing, whilst crimes are invented for dissenters under umbrella terms such as “spreading false rumours” or “leaking state secrets. Show trials are broadcast on aptly named state television channel CCTV, as any hope of due process quickly melts away. The best weapon of a dictatorship is the secrecy with which it enforces its methods and the world watches as lies about brave custodians are carved into history books, reinforcing the domination of Beijing.

A Cry for Help from Hong Kong. Source: HKFP

A Cry for Help from Hong Kong. Source: HKFP

One wonders what may cause such a sudden increase in aggression from President Xi. Is there perhaps, unbeknownst to us, a certain political instability? Or is it just harder and harder for Beijing to justify the thorny existence of the one party state? Perhaps what the CCP really fears however, is that somewhere in the future, whether it be due to an economic crash or a “political revolution” as seen in Taiwan, they lose their stranglehold over the power and therefore money that flows into their pockets.

One would hope that such disgusting violations would illicit an equally stringent response from foreign countries and newspapers, especially those whose citizens currently suffer at the dictatorial hands of China. However, “Great” Britain gagged by a nuclear deal with dollar signs in their eyes have offered little more than a few grumblings of concern. Especially in the case of Lee Bo, where many wonder why they are not upholding and enforcing the International Treaty (Sino-British Joint Declaration) guaranteeing various securities for Hong Kong which they signed before the handover in 1997. The answer however is clear, for Britain, the moral duty owed to Hong Kongers (and there certainly is one) does not outweigh the potential political fallout.  The UN is little better, issuing an occasional statement without any real threat of sanctions or offers of protection; Do they not deserve their humanity?

“The candle burns not for us, but for all those whom we failed to rescue from prison, who were shot on the way to prison, who were tortured, who were kidnapped, who ‘disappeared’. That’s what the candle is for.” Peter Benson, Founder of Amnesty International.

Consider this, therefore, a warning. Actions must be taken before Human Rights lie at the bottom of a dusty Chinese cemetery, nothing but a long-forgotten dream, trampled into the dirt by a tyrant under the watchful eye of the supposedly “developed” world.

Callum Phillips
About Callum Phillips
Callum Phillips hails from a small town in Wales and is a reluctant Law student at the University of Hong Kong and the University of Leicester. His interests lie in Governance, Human Rights, Social Activism and generally questioning authority. While he is in Hong Kong he has become a very vocal campaigner and a staunch pro-democratic & morality-centred commentator. Tweet him @CallumPhillips8