Saturday, April 09, 2011

China: Wave of enforced disappearances in China sparks concern

Jeremy Sarkin, chairman of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances [file photo]

UN - A group of United Nations human rights experts today voiced serious concern about the recent wave of enforced disappearances reported to have taken place in China, calling on authorities in the Asian nation to release all those who have been forcibly disappeared.

The five-member UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has received multiple reports from China of “a number of persons” being subject to enforced disappearances including the lawyers Teng Biao, Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong and Tang Jingling.

In a press statement issued in Geneva, the working group said that human rights activists, lawyers and students appear to be the targets of the recent disappearances.

“According to the allegations received, there is a pattern of enforced disappearances in China, where persons suspected of dissent are taken to secret detention facilities, and are then often tortured and intimidated, before being released or put into ‘soft detention’ and barred from contacting the outside world,” the working group said.

The experts stressed that an enforced disappearance represents a crime under international law.

“Even short-term secret detentions can qualify as enforced disappearances. There can never be an excuse to disappear people, especially when those persons are peacefully expressing their dissent with the Government of their country.”

The working group added it is also concerned by several long-running cases of reported disappearances, including a case from 1995 involving six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, also known as the 11th Panchen Lama.

“While the Chinese authorities have admitted taking him, they have continually refused to divulge any information about him or his whereabouts, making his case an enforced disappearance,” today’s statement noted.

The experts called on China to release all those who have been forcibly disappeared and to provide information on the fate and whereabouts of people who have allegedly disappeared.

The working group’s chair-rapporteur is Jeremy Sarkin of South Africa. Its other members are: Ariel Dulitkzy (Argentina), Jasminka Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Osman El-Hajj√© (Lebanon) and Olivier de Frouville (France).

Created in 1980, the working group’s members are independent and they report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.