#IndexAwards2007: Chen Guangcheng, Whistleblower of the Year


Chen Guangcheng, a Chinese civil right activist who won the Freedom of Expression Award in the Whistleblower of the Year in 2007, today lives in New York City. When Index on Censorship honoured him, Chen Guangcheng was serving a prison sentence for organising a landmark class-action lawsuit against authorities in Linyi, Shandong province, for the excessive enforcement of the one-child policy.

Released in 2010 from prison, he remained under house arrest at his home in Dongshigu Village. In April 2012, Chen escaped his house arrest and fled to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. After negotiations with the Chinese government, he left the embassy for medical treatment in early May 2012. On 19 May 2012, he, his wife, and his two children were granted U.S. visas and departed Beijing for New York City. Due to the help of New York University professor Jerome A. Cohen, Chen was granted a placement at NYU. He started learning English and remained a public critic of the Chinese government, with editorials in the New York Times and other media outlets.

At the same time, Chen developed a close association with conservative Christian and pro-life figures in the United States. In October 2013, he accepted an offer from the conservative Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, and became a Distinguished Senior Fellow in Human Rights, as well as a Visiting Fellow of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America. In his role as Witherspoon fellow, he has delivered public lectures, including one at Princeton University entitled “China and the World in the 21st Century: The Next Human Rights Revolution” in which he asked for the support of America to the Chinese opposition that fights against the government.

Chen Guangcheng’s memoir, The Barefoot Lawyer, was published in March 2015.

Constantin Eckner is a member of Index on Censorship’s Youth Advisory Board. Originally from Germany, he graduated from University of St Andrews with a MA in modern history, and is currently a PhD candidate specialising in human rights, asylum policy and the history of migration.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”85476″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=”https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2016/11/awards-2017/”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards

Seventeen years of celebrating the courage and creativity of some of the world’s greatest journalists, artists, campaigners and digital activists

2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1492506097197-e4a3fdd4-b163-7″ taxonomies=”3023, 85″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Julian Assange granted political asylum in Ecuador

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been granted political asylum in Ecuador. The Australian national, who has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for two months after breaching his bail conditions in the UK, is wanted in Sweden, where allegations of sexual assault have been made against him. The Ecuadorian  foreign ministry said it was not confident that Assange would not be extradited to the United States should he return to Sweden. Assange has been heavily criticised in the US for publishing secret diplomatic cables, but as yet no charge has been brought against him.

Private Bradley Manning, alleged to be the source of the cable leak, has been in the US since July 2010, where he faces several charges including “aiding the enemy”.

Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa has previously appeared as a guest on Julian Assange’s Russia Today interview programme. The South American country has faced criticism for its record on free speech.

UPDATE: The British Foreign Office has released this statement

We are disappointed by the statement from Ecuador’s Foreign Minister that Ecuador has offered political asylum to Julian Assange.

Under our law, with Mr Assange having exhausted all options of appeal, the British authorities are under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden. We shall carry out that obligation. The Ecuadorian Government’s decision this afternoon does not change that.

We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act.

The mysterious case of Hamza Kashgari

In deporting Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari for his blasphemous tweets, the Malaysian government acted in its own interests and prioritised diplomacy, even if it might ultimately cost the columnist his life, argues Malik Imtiaz Sarwar

A version of this piece was first published in The Edge on 18 February

Hamza Kashgari TwitterOn 12 February Malaysia deported a young Saudi journalist named Hamza Kashgari where he is to face charges of blasphemy, an offence that carries the death sentence.

Kashgari fled Saudi Arabia after a controversy erupted after he used to social network Twitter to imagine a conversation with the Prophet Mohammed. Kashgari apologised and deleted the tweets in the hope that this would calm the situation. His efforts were insufficient and a directive was issued for his arrest for blasphemy. Kashgari fled the country, he hoped to secure political asylum in New Zealand but was arrested in Kuala Lumpur while in transit.

It seems that the Malaysian authorities would have rather kept the arrest and deportation off the radar. However, the news began to spread. The authorities began trying to justify themselves and their intended actions. It was suggested that the arrest was part of an Interpol initiative, though Interpol denied any knowledge of the matter.  Attempts were then made to characterise the affair as being part of an extradition exercise but Malaysia does not have an extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia.

Lawyers were appointed and began efforts to meet their client and to secure his release. They appear to have been given the run-around or kept in the dark about the fact that the authorities had already unilaterally decided to return Kashgari to Saudi Arabia. The procuring of an injunction from a High Court judge on Sunday to temporarily restrain the deportation came to nought; Kashgari had been deported earlier that morning despite awareness of the intended legal challenge.

One cannot help but question the manner in which the Malaysian authorities conducted themselves. Malaysia was under no legal obligation to return the journalist to Saudi Arabia and the two countries are not bound by an extradition treaty, meaning what Kashgari has done in Saudi Arabia is not of relevance in Malaysia. Kashgari had not committed any offence in Malaysia and had entered the country on a valid travel document. He was not intending to stay in Malaysia; his final port of call was New Zealand.

There is a more fundamental question: what was Kasghari arrested for? That has not been made clear by the authorities; all they have said is that he is wanted in Saudi Arabia. Under Malaysian law a person is guaranteed life and liberty and can only be arrested for having committed a crime. Kashgari did not commit a crime here, he was entitled to contest the legality of his arrest. This is why his lawyers ultimately filed a habeas corpus application.

The situation is ironic. The Home Minister has attempted to justify the deportation as an extradition. But were this to be the case, the person sought to be extradited would be entitled to challenge the validity of the extradition order. Those who have been following the extradition proceedings concerning Julian Assange would have seen how aggressively he has opposed extradition. In the same way, General Augustus Pinochet had fought his extradition to Spain. In such cases it is open to the person sought to be extradited to show that were he to be extradited, he would face consequences that were harsher than those permitted in the deporting country.

Where Kashgari is concerned, this was clearly the case. He is facing a death sentence for having done something that would either not have been an offence in Malaysia or would not have carried a death sentence.

The very real possiblity of Kashgari being sentenced to death has been studiously avoided by the Malaysian authorities. They take the position that this is an internal Saudi matter. Curiously, the Home Minister has gone on to say that Malaysia is not to be seen as a haven for terrorists; the offence Hamza is said to have committed does not concern an act of terrorism.

And underlying all of this is the fact that the Malaysian authorities did not have to intervene at all. Kashgari could have been left to take his flight to New Zealand and the problem would have been New Zealand’s.

All of this marshals into one inescapable conclusion. The Malaysian government acted only in its own interests and chose to prioritise diplomatic expediency over the lawful rights of Hamza Kashgari, even though this may ultimately cost the columnist his life. In doing so, the government acted in complete defiance of legal obligations it was under.

I am not alone in this view. The National Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) has condemned the authorities for having acted as they did.

For all its talk about moderation,  progress and commitment to the fundamentals of the international human rights framework, it is regrettable that the Malaysian government appears to be willing to uphold human rights only where it is politically convenient to do so. Put more plainly, it just does not seem to care.

Were it otherwise, Hamza Kashgari would have had his day in court.

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar is a practising lawyer and the president of the Malaysian National Human Rights Society. He tweets at @malikimitiaz

Belarus: Natalia Radzina seeking asylum abroad

Belarusian journalist Natalia Radzina has revealed that she is seeking political asylum in a foreign country. She has declined to comment on where she is and how she got there. Radzina was ordered to attend the KGB office in Minsk on 31 March. It is thought that the purpose of this visit was for the KGB to bring a formal charge against her for organising “mass disorder” during a protest against the presidential election result in December 2010. However, her mother claims she saw her daughter board a train on 30 March and could not contact her the following day. Radzina was nominated for an Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award in 2010.