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Federal Government’s Human Rights Commissioner on the Chinese Government’s increased actions against activists in southern China

10.05.2016 - Press release

Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement on 10 May:

I am deeply concerned about the Chinese Government’s increased actions since the end of last year against many activists in southern China. On 8 April 2016, prison sentences were handed down to WANG Mo, XIE Fengxia (alias XIE Wenfei), ZHANG Rongping (alias ZHANG Shengyu) and LIANG Qinhui, even though it appears that they were merely making use of their right to freedom of opinion.

I am also concerned about other trials which took place in April 2016 in Canton and Foshan (LIU Shaoming, SU Changlan, CHEN Qitang). During these trials, the right of the accused to unrestricted access to their legal representation, the visiting rights of family members, as well as the right to adequate medical treatment were violated repeatedly. Some of the detainees, for example the well-known women’s rights activist SU Changlan, are said to be in poor health.

In particular, the state of health of the civil rights activist YANG Maodong (alias GUO Feixiong), who received a long prison sentence in November 2015, is a source of great concern. I call on the Chinese Government to examine his prison conditions and, as a first step, to grant him the medical treatment he so urgently needs or to suspend his prison sentence on medical grounds.

The series of arrests as well as the failure to uphold rule-of-law principles vis-à-vis numerous activists is damaging China’s international standing. What is more, I regret that China has not granted international trial observers access to court hearings. I hope that the sentences handed down in April 2016 will be reviewed closely within the framework of fair appeal proceedings.

Background information:

The civil rights activists mentioned above regard themselves as members of the Southern Street Movement, which publicly rejects China’s current political system. Their demands include a democratic China and the renunciation of the one-party state.

The activists WANG Mo and XIE Fengxia (alias XIE Wenfei), who were sentenced on 8 April 2016, proclaimed their support in Canton in 2014 for the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong and were initially detained on suspicion of causing public disorder and later charged with subversion.

SU Changlan is a well-know women’s rights activist in southern China. In particular, she champions the rights of women and children, focusing on trafficking in children, child brides, family planning and violence against women in connection with the one-child policy. Furthermore, she has been promoting the rights of the children of migrants, land rights, democracy and against unlawful forced evictions.

YANG Maodong (alias GUO Feixiong) is a well-known human rights defender, who has been in prison since 8 August 2013. In January 2013, he took part in a protest against media censorship. On 27 November 2015, GUO was found guilty of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

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