China 'arbitrarily detaining' activist: UN panel

2 months ago 47

GENEVA (AFP) - China is "arbitrarily detaining" anti-corruption activist Zhang Baocheng, who was arrested three years ago for allegedly "promoting terrorism", UN experts have ruled, urging Beijing to immediately release him.

In a ruling reached last November but made public by one of the plaintiffs on Monday (April 25), the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Zhang's detention since 2019 was "arbitrary".

The working group, made up of five independent experts who do not speak on behalf of the United Nations and whose opinions are not binding, called on China to "release Mr Zhang immediately".

It also demanded that Beijing provide him compensation and ensure a "full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty".

Beijing has stepped up its crackdown on civil society since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012, tightening restrictions on freedom of speech and detaining hundreds of activists and lawyers.

The working group pointed out that in its 30-year-history, it had found China to be in violation of its international rights obligations in over 1,000 cases, voicing concern that this "indicates a systemic problem with arbitrary detention" in the country.

Zhang himself had already been handed a two-year prison term in 2014 for "disrupting public order" after holding a banner in a crowded shopping area in Beijing, urging officials to disclose their assets as a check against corruption.

He was arrested again five years later, charged with "picking quarrels" and "promoting terrorism, extremism, and inciting terrorism", and is serving a 3.5-year sentence in Beijing.

'INHUMANE'

The working group slammed the charges against the 63-year-old activist as "so vague and broad that they could be used to deprive individuals of their liberty without a specific legal basis".

It said it had seen no information that would reasonably implicate Zhang in specific violent or criminal acts, noting that the prosecution's main evidence against him during the trial had been his tweets criticising the camps in Xinjiang province housing Uighur Muslims.

Rights groups say that at least one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in "re-education camps" in China's Xinjiang province, and face widespread rights abuses - allegations Beijing vehemently denies.

The experts said...

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