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A Summary of Freedom of Press and Human Rights Situation in Asia


(updated on April 7, 2022)


Following the widespread pandemic in 2020, Covid-19 still dominated the economic and daily life of people in Southeast Asia in 2021.

The whole world suffered economic pain, mass joblessness, and even hunger as trade and tourism slowed down under virus restrictions.  China has closed the border with Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and North Korea, which devastated those countries that rely on Chinese trade and investment. I would like to examine several regions to describe the worrying situation there.


Uighurs and Turkic-people in Xinjiang

The 12 million Uighurs of Xinjiang have been heavily controlled by the Chinese Communist government since 1949. The Muslim minority have suffered especially under Xi Jinping's Administration since 2012. The Communist party chief Chen Quanguo has ruled Xinjiang with an iron hand for the last 5 years – including mass internment camps (re-education camps), force labour, sexual attacks and coercive birth restrictions which are happening daily in the area. The US, Canada, the Netherlands, the UK and some other countries have described the treatment of Uighurs and Turkic people as genocide and crimes against humanity. More than 1.8 million Muslims have been detained in camps. The US and its allies have imposed sanctions or trade controls targeting firms that produce goods using forced labour in Xinjiang. Yet China has ignored the international protest and reacted with counter-sanction against EU politicians, think tanks and individuals. 

Recently (December 26, 2021) Governor Chen has been removed from the position and replaced by Ma Xingrui, governor of the coastal economic province Guangdong. Will the severe human right abuses in Xinjiang stop through the change of the governor? There is no sign of a positive trend yet. China continues its arrogant and aggressive foreign policy, rejects any criticisms from abroad on Xinjiang. The people of Tibet as well as Inner Mongolia faced intensifying surveillance and repression of their Buddhist practices in 2021, along with an aggressive campaign to reduce and eliminate education in the Tibetan and Mongolian languages in favour of Chinese. Beijing’s policy against these minorities procreates hostility and hatred among the other nationalities and the Han Chinese.


Hong Kong

The Hiobsbotschaft/bad news from the media environment in Hong Kong continues to shock the world. Following the shutting of Apple Daily in June 2021, and Stand News on 29.12. 2021, the independent Hong Kong news site Citizen News closed down on 4 January 2022.

In June, the Hong Kong government used the imported Security Law to shut down Apple Daily, the largest Chinese language opposition newspaper, and prosecuted 12 journalists. Jimmy Lai, the founder of Apple Daily was sentenced to 14 months because of his role in an unauthorised assembly in 2019. In December 2021 he was again sentenced to an additional 13 months over his violation for joining the banned vigil on 4 June 4.

Stand News is an independent, non-profit, news website in Chinese founded in 2014. On 29 December six current and former members of Stand News were arrested under the accusation of “conspiracy to publish seditious publications”. Around 200 police officers raided the office and confiscated files and documents of the company.

Citizen News is an independent, non-profit, digital news website established in 2017, supported by a group of experienced media professionals. I (Tienchi Martin-Liao) was a columnist on this website.

The Hong Kong governor Carrie Lam is determined to strangle the critical voices and to terminate the freedom of press in Hong Kong. Since the imposing of the Security Laws on 1 July 2020, 132 people have been arrested, including journalists, pro-democracy politicians, labour union activists, student leaders and civil citizens. Hong Kong has been downgraded to a typical Chinese city, so that the Communist Party has complete control of public opinion. The promised “one country, two systems” is only empty words.


Taiwan is under military threat

Taiwan is on the front line in the fight for democracy as the threat from China grows every day, its president Tsai Ing-wen has said. According to the report by Apple Daily in Taiwan, there were 5704 military aeroplanes invading the ADIZ (Air defence identification zone) of Taiwan in 2020. In average there are 1.65 daily incursions of Taiwan's airspace. Some days, they come in groups, say over 40 or 50, to break through the ADIZ. Taiwan send ups its own planes to warn them. It is actually a miracle that no real unexpected military conflict happened.

China claims that Taiwan is a part of China, despite the island republic being a democratic and prosperous free country. The military threat is not only in the air, but also on the sea. The China’s Navy ships are crossing the Taiwan Street and circling the island too. China uses fatigue tactics of the daily military threats hoping to weary the defence forces in Taiwan People are tired of the warnings. One day, when the real attack comes, China may try to take over Taiwan with a blitzkrieg.

The Taiwanese believe that the US will rescue them in a critical situation, yet after the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan, can people still trust US politicians?

Russian President Vladimir Putin started the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022. This unjust war has destroyed the country and killed 1417 and wounded 2038 civilian people (stand of April 2, OHCHR) in Ukraine and forced over 400 million people abandon their home to become refugees. How many Russian soldiers are killed is unknown, the estimation indicates up to ten thousand. There is no sign of the ending of the war. Would Taiwan have the same fate as Ukraine and becomes the victim of the Chinese hegemony in the near future? No one can tell, but the fear is eligible.



China and endangered females

Citizen journalist and lawyer Zhang Zhan from Shanghai has been imprisoned since May 2020 after she went to Wu Han and reported on the city's lockdown in January 2020. Zhang Zhan took pictures of the hospital, the crematorium and the empty city. She talked to a few people who she could find and posted the information on WeChat. Three weeks later she was arrested and thrown in jail. Zhang was sentenced to four years at the end of 2020. The 38 year old Zhang refused to accept the accusation, she said she has not violated the law. So she started a quasi hunger strike half a year ago. She was forced fed through the nostril. Her health deteriorated rapidly in prison. She lost so much weight that she now weighs less than 40 kilos. Her family believes that she is dying and has asked for help. Report without Borders, along with dozens of other NGOs have urged Beijing, without success to release her for medical parole. Very recently, the family of Zhang has released information that her health condition has improved.

School teacher Li Tiantian of Hunan province has supported for Shanghai journalism lecturer Song Gengyi, of Aurora College, who encouraged her students to verify official accounts of the Nanjing massacre. Song was denounced by one of her students, therefore was fired by the college. Li posted her supportive words to colleague Song. Thereupon the local officer of Li Tiantian’s home town, Shaba, came to her and forced her into a psychiatric hospital. They alleged that she has “mental problems” and needs care. Ms. Li is pregnant, she issued a cry for help on Weibo on 20 December 2021. There was a furious reaction on the Chinese internet about the authority’s inhuman act and called for her release.

Tennis Star Peng Shuai disappeared for a certain time after she posted a text online in November 2021. Her allegation of sexual assault against a member of Politburo Standing Committee of CCP, Zhang Gaoli, has raised public attention. International protest was so alarming that Beijing reacted clumsily. She was shown in public having a video talk with Thomas Bach, the German IOC chief, weeks later. As the protest continued, a six minute video of an interview with Peng Shuai was published by a Singapore newspaper. It is said she is free, she is happy, she has never been sexually assaulted… China is under pressure because of the international reproach of its human rights situation and the treatment of a globally recognised sports woman. Voices calling for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in China this February are becoming louder.

The Olympic is over, now the whole world is watching the Russian Ukraine war. The Chinese government does not blame the invader, and isn’t joining the Western sanction against Russia. The ambiguous attitude to the perpetrator and the victims is an indication of Beijing’s political intention to the Uighurs and to Taiwan.


Tienchi Martin-Liao, Vice-Chair of the Writers for Peace Committee

January 04, 2022 (updated on April 7, 2022)