Taiwan Activists Call For Social Media Campaign on China's Human Rights Record

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A news conference by 17 Taiwan NGOs condemning China's practice of sending police to seize its critics overseas and using local gangsters to incite political violence on the democratic island, Oct. 17, 2017.
A news conference by 17 Taiwan NGOs condemning China's practice of sending police to seize its critics overseas and using local gangsters to incite political violence on the democratic island, Oct. 17, 2017.

Taiwan activists on Tuesday called on the rest of the world to use social media to call attention to Beijing's human rights record, and its growing tendency to pursue its critics overseas.

As part of international campaign to put pressure on President Xi Jinping over human rights in Tibet, rights groups in the democratic island say they plan to use social media to pressure China on its human rights record.

"Checking in at the Great Hall of the People on Facebook is one way to express our concerns about Tibet," Lee Peng-hsuan of the International Tibet Network told a news conference in Taipei.

"We can also post messages telling Beijing that its encroachment on human rights has not gone unnoticed. We are watching."

Eeling Chiu, who heads the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, said rights groups are also concerned about the Chinese Communist Party's growing willingness to pursue its critics overseas, even those who aren't its nationals.

Chiu pointed to the recent subversion trial of Taiwan democracy activist Lee Ming-cheh, who pleaded guilty to charges of "incitement to subvert state power" at his trial in Hunan's Yueyang city on Sept. 11. He was the first foreign national to be held under new laws governing NGO activity in China.

"We have been seeing more and more such cases including Lee Ming-cheh," Chiu said. "There was also the case of [Hong Kong publisher and Swedish national] Gui Minhai, as well as examples of citizens of other countries being detained."

In February 2016, the U.K. accused Beijing of breaching the handover treaty by removing bookseller and British national Lee Bo, whose "disappearance" alongside Gui and three other colleagues has been linked to the plans to publish a book about the Chinese president.

There is no record of Lee leaving Hong Kong, suggesting that he was spirited across the internal immigration border by Chinese police, while Gui, who holds a Swedish passport, was effectively kidnapped while on vacation in Thailand.

"We have even seen China try to extend its jurisdiction over other foreign nationals," Chiu said. "We think that this should send out a very strong warning signal."

Violent attacks in Taiwan

Taiwan professor Lin Hsiu-hsin, who heads an association of university professors, said China appears to be seeking to exert influence over the island's democracy via many different channels.

"China has already used open violence in its attempts to interfere in Taiwan's democracy," Lin told RFA. "It supports various social groups to carry out violent attacks in public places on people whose opinions aren't the same as their own."

"These actions seem sporadic and harmless, as if they have no power to harm us ... but they will have an invisible impact over time, so that people start to avoid publicly expressing themselves, which will hamper the democratic process in Taiwan," she said.

"The Lee Ming-cheh incident is one such example, where Taiwan has been treated as if it is under China's jurisdiction."

The International Tibet Network said in a report that China has effectively silenced the international community, citing Switzerland's ban on protests during Xi's visit there at the beginning of this year.

Last week, immigration officers in Hong Kong turned away Benedict Rogers, a human rights activist for the U.K.'s ruling Conservative Party from the separately administered city, after Chinese officials warned him not to travel there.

"Two years on, it is time for the international community to ask some very serious questions of China," Rogers wrote on the conservative current affairs site Unherd. "It is time to speak up for Gui Minhai."

Gui's daughter Angela spoke to him three times in 2016, but hasn't been in touch with him for 16 months, Rogers said.

"He has been denied access to legal counsel and Swedish consular assistance, he has not been officially charged or tried, and his whereabouts are unknown," he added, hitting out at Sweden for using a quiet diplomatic approach that "has not worked."

Angela Gui told the New York Times in a recent interview: "What happened to my father ... shows that foreign citizens aren’t safe from Chinese state security, even when they are outside China’s borders."

"I find it strange that governments aren’t more worried about China’s new self-proclaimed role as world police," she said.

Reported by Tung Kuang-cheng for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Hwang Chun-mei for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.





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