UN rights envoy was followed in China, sources intimidated

UN rights envoy was followed in China, sources intimidated

BEIJING — A U.N. representative on human rights said that he was followed by security officers in disguise during an official trip to China and that some activists he met with may have suffered intimidation and retaliation.

Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur for extreme poverty and human rights, said the Chinese government’s conduct was at odds with the need for U.N. experts to have the freedom to assess situations and preserve the confidentiality of sources.

The difficulties are contained in a final report on his mission to China in August, which was emailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday. It is to be delivered to the U.N. Human Rights Council in June.

They include warnings by the Chinese government not to make direct contact with civil society organizations to arrange meetings, requests for full details of any private meetings and security officers posing as private citizens regularly following Alston.

The space for civil society has been curtailed dramatically under President Xi Jinping. He has presided over detentions of lawyers and rights activists, bloggers and others reporting on rights abuses and critiquing government policies, and tightening controls over foreign non-government organizations.

Alston’s report said that the government warned both him and individuals it considered “sensitive” not to meet with each other, and one meeting was prevented when a person was taken into custody for a couple of hours.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Wednesday that he couldn’t comment on the report as he hadn’t seen it.

“What I can say is that Chinese authorities actively supported and co-ordinated his visit to China last year, making sure it was conducted smoothly. He met with the Chinese people he wanted to meet,” Geng said. He added that the Chinese representative at the Human Rights Council would present China’s position when the report comes before it in June.

Alston’s nine-day mission in August 2016 was to assess whether the country’s policies relating to extreme poverty are consistent with its human rights obligations.

William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, said China has “many positive things to say” on poverty relief, “but of course this gets undermined by this issue of trying to control access.”

“Unfortunately, this type of heavy-handed treatment is really par for the course in China,” said Nee. “I would say that it’s almost predictable that the government would go out of their way to intimidate sources, try to control the itinerary and not allow the special rapporteur to have the freedom of movement.”

During and after Alston’s visit, certain individuals he met or was supposed to meet “were subjected to what appear to be acts of intimidation and reprisal,” the report says. It mentions Jiang Tianyong, a prominent legal rights activist who met Alston on his trip and disappeared on Nov. 21. He has since been accused of inciting subversion of state power, and a state-run newspaper published a purported interview with him in March in which he allegedly confessed to peddling “fake news” to overseas media.

In October, Alston told the Chinese government that he had received information that the wives of two detained lawyers had allegedly been intimidated and harassed, with one of them allegedly arrested, partly in retaliation for their “co-operation” with him.

The Chinese government responded by saying that neither Wang Qiaoling’s nor Li Wenzu’s movements were restricted, nor were they illegally monitored or harassed, according to a document on the website of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Alston’s report said that China’s leadership had shown “impressive” political will in committing to building a society free of extreme poverty, but that China needed to produce and publish more accurate data to use when making policy. He also said that China needed to treat “economic and social rights as human rights.”

___

Online: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/35/26/Add.2

___

Associated Press video journalist Isolda Morillo contributed to this report.

___

Follow Watt on Twitter at twitter.com/louise_watt

Louise Watt, The Associated Press

Just Posted

B.C. freestyle skier wins gold

Cassie Sharpe of Comox shines in the halfpipe

22 teams compete in Sweetheart Curling Bonspiel

From February 9 to 11, the Sparwood Curling Club hosted it’s annual… Continue reading

Political theatre shines light on womens issues

The Vagina Monologues returned to Fernie last weekend for the second time,… Continue reading

Local rink heading to curling provincials

The Mens Masters East-West playdown took place in Sparwood from February 2-4.… Continue reading

Kootenay East MLA reacts to Throne Speech

Tom Shypitka says speech falls short of intended mark.

VIDEO: Traffic-sign abiding Fernie deer caught on tape

A herd of deer in Fernie, B.C. is getting attention online after stopping for a stop sign

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Virtue and Moir end ice dance careers with Olympic gold

Virtue and Moir’s gold medal win at the Olympics makes them the world’s most decorated figure skaters

Canadians find living in small spaces teaches creativity

Canadian families choosing to live in small spaces to bring closeness to children

NDP Health Minister calls to offer woman seat on Interior Health Board

Joyce Beddow-Buckland of Ashcroft was surprised by the call, and accepted the offer.

SAR suspends search for missing man at Sun Peaks

RCMP will continue to search for a missing man near Kamloops but SAR has suspended their role

Lottery will help save children’s lives

Each ticket gets you a chance to win a lot of money, while helping a lot of kids

B.C. RCMP officer officially cleared in car wash shooting incident

A report found the Salmon Arm officer fired 14 bullets at the man’s truck

Interest in Canadian Armed Forces remains high

Canada seeks about 5,000 recruits each year for its regular forces of about 68,000

Most Read