Disappointments at the UN, but we must not let the challenges obscure the good that it can achieve

Earlier this month, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) voted to elect 14 new members to the Human Rights Council (HRC) to serve from 2023 to 2025. Among those elected were Sudan and Vietnam. The former was selected in a clean slate election, meaning that the number of candidates equaled the number of seats available, while the latter defeated Afghanistan and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). 

The election of both of these states is deeply disappointing.  

Sudan is currently led by a military leader who seized power illegally from the civilian-led transitional government in an October 2021 coup, and where the past year has been characterized by the killing and brutalising of peaceful protesters, and attempts to reverse the limited human rights gains made under the transitional government, including in relation to the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB). 

The Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) has led the northern part of Vietnam since 1954, and took control of the rest of the country in 1975, following the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. During that time, the VCP has repeatedly violated human rights, including FoRB and land rights, whilst routinely targeting those who request or advocate for such rights with harassment, arbitrary detention, imprisonment, physical violence and even torture

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After the UN’s allegations of crimes against humanity, the world must mobilise on China’s actions in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

In April 2020, CSW published a guest blog written by an expert on Uyghur culture who outlined the pervasive human rights crisis in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Over two years later, the situation remains unchanged, and as we hear from the same expert, the need for international action grows more pressing with every passing day.

“Kamil is a broken young man. Wrenched from his home at dead of night five years ago, hooded, shackled and shoved into the back of a police van, he disappeared. Two years ago, he re-emerged. Via friends of friends we heard with immense relief that he was alive, but the message we received was that he feared nothing anymore, such had been the terror he had faced daily during his incarceration. Yes he was alive, but barely.

More than two years have passed since my last blog, and there are hundreds of thousands of Kamils. Some have been ‘released’ to forced labour, many making cheap clothing for Western brands; others have been sentenced for spurious crimes in secret courts to draconian prison terms; others are still unaccounted for, and many have died.

The Chinese government has been working overtime garnering support around the world to justify incarcerating up to three million Uyghur and Turkic minority citizens from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, its North Westernmost province, in a network of at least 380 razor-wire clad and watchtower-surrounded so-called ‘Vocational Training Schools’.

Continue reading After the UN’s allegations of crimes against humanity, the world must mobilise on China’s actions in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances – Stories from China

Gao Zhisheng has been kidnapped, tortured and detained on and off by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime since 2006. In 2019, his wife Geng He told the International Service for Human Rights that being disappeared has become “the norm in his life”.

In that same interview, she added, “My children and I have never experienced the common happiness of united families… We only have one wish, which is that Gao Zhisheng is alive and that he can come back home alive.”

Ms Geng, who has been in exile along with her and Gao’s children since 2009, has just marked another sad anniversary: the fifth anniversary of her husband’s most recent disappearance.

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‘I fear they will normalise this’ – Restrictions combine to make life even more difficult for religion and belief groups in China

The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound effects on the functions of nearly every religion or belief group in every country in the world over the past two years. While many have now emerged from lockdowns and measures imposed to curb the spread of the virus are being lifted in most countries, arguably some of the strictest restrictions remain in the country where the virus was first detected: China.

Since December 2021, China has been wrestling with the spread of the omicron variant, with many cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Xi’an, having been placed under lockdowns at various points over the past six months. Even as lockdowns have been lifted in some places, they remain in effect in others, and there is no telling from one week to the next whether more severe measures will be enforced in any one place.

Meanwhile, for religious groups in these and other cities remaining restrictions designed to limit the spread of the virus have combined with new regulations on online religious activities to make everything from online meetings to day-to-day communication extremely difficult.

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Far-fetched and fantastical? One aspect of Squid Game could be all too real

Netflix’s hit dystopian drama – with deadly playground games, anonymous masked henchmen and a giant murderous doll – is far-fetched to say the least. And yet, arguably, one storyline underplays the grim reality.

In just four weeks, Squid Game, the Korean production where contestants play children’s games and the losing players are killed, became Netflix’s most popular series ever and number one in 90 countries.

In one storyline, guards take the bodies of losing contestants and operate on them, removing vital organs while the subjects are still alive. These organs are then rushed to be sold to Chinese traders.

Continue reading “Far-fetched and fantastical? One aspect of Squid Game could be all too real”