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China casts its ‘SkyNet’ far and wide, pursuing tens of thousands who flee overseas

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s law enforcement agencies routinely track, harass, threaten and repatriate people who flee the country, many of them Turkic-speaking Uyghurs, under its SkyNet surveillance program that reaches far beyond China’s borders, using a variety of means to have them forcibly repatriated. A video clip of a Uyghur mother and her 13-year-old daughter crying for help after being detained in Saudi Arabia and told they would be sent to China recently surfaced on social media, highlighting China’s use of pliant allies to circumvent criminal justice processes and ensure political refugees and Muslims are sent back. The Safeguard Defenders rights group has called on the Saudi authorities to release Abla Buhelchem and her daughter Babure Miremet immediately, as well as two other Uyghur men being held without charge by Saudi police. “We call on Saudi authorities to immediately release four Uyghurs – including a 13-year-old girl and her mother – who are at grave risk of enforced disappearance, torture and forced separation if sent back to China,” the group said in a statement on its website. Abla Buhelchem and her daughter were detained near Mecca and told by police they would be sent back to China along with Abla Buhelchem’s ex-husband Nurmemet Rozi and Hemdulla Weli, both of whom have been detained without charge since November 2020. Rozi and Weli were both in Saudi Arabian on pilgrimage, an act that the CCP deems “extremist” along with many other required expressions of Islamic faith, and were detained at the request of the Chinese embassy. It said the two men were moved from the detention center where they were being held in March 2022, and their whereabouts are currently unknown. Abla Buhelchem (L) and her 13-year-old daughter Babure Miremet (R), who have been detained in Saudi Arabia and told they would be sent to China. Credit: Uyghur Human Rights Project. ‘ Gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights’ On Friday, April 1, United Nations legal experts said the four should on no account be sent to China. “The prohibition of refoulement is absolute and non-derogable under international human rights and refugee law,” the statement said. “States are obliged not to remove any individual from their territory when there are substantial grounds for believing that the person could be subjected to serious human rights violations in the State of destination, including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.” Norway-based Uyghur scholar Abdul Ayup, said he last heard from Abla Buhelchem on April 9. “At that time, she had already arrived at the detention center in Riyadh,” Ayup said.  “She said she was waiting for the Chinese embassy personnel. She said that she was told that she would be deported in three hours. She kept crying.” Abduweli, a person familiar with the situation, said all four were still in detention in Saudi Arabia as of April 28. He said he had tried to warn Abla Buhelchem of the danger, and advised her to leave the country, but she wanted to stay and tell her ex-husband’s story to the international community, fearing he would disappear and be forgotten about. “My friends who work in the Saudi government told me privately that Uyghurs shouldn’t come to Saudi Arabia.” “As far as I know, there has been no clear accusation until now, and the officials have not explained why they were arbitrarily arrested without any documentation,” Abduweli said. “This is very strange.” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International secretary-general for the Middle East and North Africa, said the forcible repatriation of the four Uyghurs was “unconscionable,” and a violation of Saudi Arabia’s obligations in international law. “In China, they will be arbitrarily detained, persecuted, and possibly tortured,” Maalouf said. Nurmemet Rozi (L)m Abla Buhelchem’s ex-husband, and Hemdulla Weli, who have been detained without charge in Saudi Arabia since November 2020. Credit: Safeguard Defenders Arab world repatriations In 2020, Saudi Arabia and 45 other countries signed a letter in support of China’s mass detention camps in Xinjiang, marking a “turning point” for Saudi foreign policy, according to Bradley Jardine, fellow at the Kissinger Institute for U.S.-China Relations. At least five other governments in the Arab world — Egypt, Morocco, Qatar, Syria and the United Arab Emirates — have detained, extradited, or participated in cross-border repression of Uyghurs at China’s request. And the problem isn’t confined to the Middle East. “It is very difficult for Uyghur advocates to travel to Central Asia now,” Omer Kanat, chairman of the executive committee of the World Uyghur Congress told RFA after being sent back to Turkey from Kazakhstan. “I was stopped by border officials while visiting Kazakhstan. I was interrogated by Kazakh security officers at the airport, who asked me why I came to Central Asia.” Beijing’s allies among Central Asian nations are grouped under its Shanghai Cooperation Organization initiative. “They told me that no member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is going to let me in, then they sent me back to Turkey,” Omer Kanat said. According to statistics from the Uyghur Human Rights Project and the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs, the Chinese government has detained, deported or extradited more than 1,300 Uyghurs since China’s “war on terrorism” began in 2014, most of the them from Muslim-majority countries. U.S.-based Freedom House has described in a recent report several key features of China’s transnational crackdown. Political dissidents, activists also sent back China will target ethnic groups like the Uyghurs, but also political dissidents, rights activists, journalists and former officials using its overseas networks. Between the launch of the SkyNet program in 2014 and June 2021, China repatriated nearly 10,000 people from 120 countries and regions, the report said. Yet according to Safeguard Defenders, just one percent are brought back to China using judicial procedures; more than 60 percent are just put on a plane against their will. “The diversity of the CCP’s so-called ‘extradition’ is something that worries us,” Chen Yanting of Safeguard Defenders told RFA. “For example, the Interpol red…

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China enlists foreign vloggers to whitewash Uyghur situation in Xinjiang

China has enlisted some fresh faces in its pushback against charges it is committing genocide against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang: young foreign social media influencers who produce short videos showing happy minorities in the far-western region. Travel videos recorded by video bloggers known as vloggers are carried on platforms such as Twitter that are banned in China and spread by state media and affiliated sites. The echo and amplify Beijing’s massive propaganda effort to depict Uyghurs as content with and grateful for Chinese rule. The videos show “foreign travelers” interviewing people in factories in Xinjiang, with captions such as “Friends, it’s a lie that there is a genocide of the Uyghurs.” “Everything is normal here,” and “Is there a single piece of evidence that there are more than 1 million people in concentration camps?” State-owned media outlets and local governments organize the pro-China campaign, paying vloggers to take trips, according to documents posted online and video producers familiar with the system. “What happens is you’ll have a state media like CGTN or CRI or iChongqing or any number of organizations which are run by the Chinese government — which are the Chinese government — and what they will do is they will pay for the flights, pay for the accommodation, organize the trip, and liaise with the content creator and invite them to go on these trips,” said YouTuber Winston Sterzel, who lived in Xinjiang. Minders working as translators or fixers are always present to make sure the content creators follow the script, he said. Vloggers, who post short videos on their personal websites or social media account on platforms like YouTube, say that local government officials arrange their travel and logging during trips they are hired for to make videos that put China in a good light. “They arrange our travel, and they pay for our lodging and food,” said YouTuber Lee Barrett in a video he recorded.   Business Insider reported in January that China’s consulate general in New York signed a U.S. $300 million contract with U.S.-based Vippi Media in New Jersey to create a social media campaign promoting positive messaging about China TikTok, Instagram, and Twitch as a lead-up to the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing. Social media influencers were asked to produce content for their target audiences on Chinese culture, positive diplomatic relations between China and the U.S., and consulate general news. ‘Living happily and joyfully’ On the YouTube channel “Two Brothers,” Netherlands-based Tarekk Habib and Anas Habib, both of Egyptian descent, published a video on Dec. 31, 2021, in which they say a Chinese company agreed to pay them U.S. $1,000 to produce and share a video extoling the government’s measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus at the Olympics and to ensure the safety of athletes. They said they turned down the request and instead produced a video discussing China’s oppression of Uyghur Muslims. China’s struggle to shape world opinion about Xinjiang will come into sharp focus this month, when U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet makes a long-awaited visit to China, including Xinjiang. Since 2017, about 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples are believed to have been incarcerated a vast network of internment camps in Xinjiang. The U.S. and a handful of European countries have labelled these practices genocide, while China has angrily rejected criticism and maintains the camps are vocational training centers designed to combat religious extremism and terrorism. In fall 2021, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) government began an initiative to mobilize foreign students in China to praise “Xinjiang policy.” The effort was part of the central government’s larger plan to portray ethnic minorities in Xinjiang as happy and content, according to an article in Xinjiang Daily. Under the title “The people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are living happily and joyfully,” the report cited a series of letters written by Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping in which he called on foreign students in July 2021 to increase their understanding of the “real China,” so that their knowledge would inspire others to understand the country as well. The XUAR government in October 2021 sponsored a trip to Xinjiang for students from 16 countries, including Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Burundi, Uganda, Russia, Pakistan, Korea, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, the U.S. and the U.K. Chinese state media said the students visited Kashgar (Kashi), Hotan (Hetian), and other places, and saw Xinjiang’s economic development, social stability, quality of life, culture, ethnic unity and religious harmony. “They are not only able to look after the young and old people in their homes, they can also earn a salary. Their work environment is very good, and they are truly happy,” an Armenian student was quoted as saying. Such accounts are meant to counter a growing tide of well-researched reports by researchers and foreign media about conditions in Xinjiang. Government minders Since the start of 2018, authorities have prevented most international journalists from entering Xinjiang and forced foreigners living in the region to leave. YouTubers from the U.S. and South Africa who lived in the Xinjiang or in mainland China for a decade or more said that while recent vlogs by foreigners “traveling” to Xinjiang appear to be simple and normal, government fixers are always on the other side of the camera, controlling what is said and recorded. “You’re gonna be approached by your agent or your middleman … who is a communicator between you and the management company, or as they call themselves, talent agencies,” said LeLe Farley, an American comedian and rap artist who lived in China for years and worked as an announcer for Chinese-language programs. “Those talent agencies get word directly from the government, like ‘we need foreign bloggers for white-washing Xinjiang; we need them to go there, and here’s the trip that we’ve prepared for them to go on. We’ll pay for the whole trip,’” he said. Josh Summers, who ran a popular blog known as “Far West China” as well as a YouTube channel, moved…

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Ukraine war disrupts cereal markets, threatens food security in SE Asia

As war rages across Ukraine, farmers have been busy towing captured Russian tanks, artillery, and downed helicopters. In addition to their new calling, is the planting of the spring crop. It’s another reminder that Russia’s illegal invasion is occurring in one of the world’s major bread baskets, with consequences for food security in Asia and beyond. What’s at stake? In 2021, Ukraine was the third largest producer of wheat, exporting 60 million of its 80 million-ton harvest. That accounted for 17 percent of global exports. In addition, Ukraine was the second largest producer of barley, the fourth largest producer of corn, and the largest producer of sunflower oil. Both Ukraine and Russia are major players in global markets. But they have a greater role in the developing world and in humanitarian disasters: Half of the World Food Program’s grain is purchased in the Ukraine. In 2021, Ukraine exported U.S. $2.9 billion in wheat to Africa. Since the war began the price of wheat, which was already at a historic high, has increased by 30 percent. Ukraine, along with Russia, is an important provider of grain and food staples to Southeast Asia. In 2020, Ukraine exported $708 million to Indonesia, accounting for 25 percent of imports; $92 million to Malaysia, 23 percent of imports; and $131 million to Thailand, around 17 percent of imports. But Indonesia and the Philippines – Southeast Asia’s most food insecure nations – will be hit particularly hard. Almost 75 percent of Indonesia’s imports from Ukraine consists of cereals, including wheat. In 2021, Indonesia imported 3.07 million tons of wheat from Ukraine. In 2020, Ukraine was the single largest source of grain for the most populous Southeast Asian nation, and the largest in 2021. And in both Indonesia and the Philippines, demand for wheat is growing. According to the Philippine statistics agency, in 2021 imports of cereals increased by nearly 48 percent over 2020. In Indonesia, flour consumption increased by almost 5 percent in 2021. At the same time, the populations of the neighboring countries are growing. Indonesia’s population is increasing by 1.1 percent per annum and the Philippines’ at 1.3 percent – making it the fastest growing population in Southeast Asia. In both countries, food production has never kept pace with population growth. And both governments are very sensitive to inflation in food commodities. Fighting spreads to farm fields Meanwhile, in the middle of Ukraine’s sowing season, the war has shifted from north of Kyiv, to the eastern part of the country. The fighting is now taking place in some of Ukraine’s most productive farmland.  In places where it is not too dangerous to farm, the physical infrastructure has been destroyed. Able-bodied men and women are serving in the military or territorial defense forces. The Ukrainian government is expecting a 30 percent decline in agricultural production this year because of the war. Dire warnings by the government suggest that exports in 2022 could plummet to 15 to 20 percent of 2021’s exports. Even if the farmers are able to grow crops, there are questions about their ability to get the grains to global markets. The Russians razed Mariupol and have devastated the physical infrastructure and depopulated most of the other of Ukraine’s ports on the Sea of Asimov. Odessa is the last major port that Russia has not attacked, but Russian forces are blockading it.  For the time being, Ukrainian grain exports are only leaving the country by train or truck, but if the Russians target logistic nodes in western Ukraine even those exports could be dented. Local farmers are also vulnerable to a liquidity crisis, unable to get the loans they need to cover operations in the first half of the season. That’s not suggest that there is a shortage of sources of wheat outside Ukraine. Last year, Indonesia imported 4.69 million tons from Australia. In 2020, it imported 2.63 million tons from Argentina. Having suppliers in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres is essential for the steady importation of food stuffs. And next to Russia, the United States, and Canada, Ukraine is the largest exporter in the Northern Hemisphere. Without a doubt, the war is bad news for global food markets. Prices for cereals have been climbing steadily in the past few years at a time when most countries have experienced economic slowdowns, the loss of income, and climbing poverty rates due to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic. Inflation in energy markets and food staples is hitting consumers hard the world over. Other uncertainty in food markets Beyond the Russian invasion of Ukraine there are other factors unsettling global food markets. China’s winter wheat harvest was described by their agriculture minister as “the worst in history.” A decline in water levels along the Mekong River due to damming has increased salt intrusion into the Mekong Delta, leading to a smaller harvest. According to the Stimson Center, the delta accounts for 50 percent of Vietnam’s rice crop, but 90 percent of rice exports. In 2020, Vietnam’s exports accounted for 7.4 percent of the global supply. Indonesia and the Philippines are amongst Vietnam’s top export markets. The economic fallout from Myanmar’s coup d’état is another factor. The kyat lost 60 percent of its value since the February 2021 military takeover, prompting a shortage of U.S. dollars and making imports of pesticides and fertilizers exorbitant. While Myanmar itself will remain food secure, the expected diminished crop will impact global markets. Myanmar is the seventh largest exporter of rice in the world. In 2020 it accounted for 3.2 percent of global exports. Optimistic estimates suggest that exports will be around 2 million tons in 2022, down from their normal export of 2.5 to 3 million tons. With the exception of Singapore, countries in Southeast Asia have been reluctant to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and none have been willing to impose sanctions, professing a desire to be neutral. But most countries in Southeast Asia will be feeling the economic pain cause by Russia’s military strike on its neighbor next-door. As this year’s president of the G-20, Indonesia is causing controversy by inviting President Putin to the Bali summit,…

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Two more Uyghurs detained in Saudi Arabia face risk of deportation to China

Two more Uyghurs — a mother and her daughter — are in danger of being deported from Saudi Arabia back to China, where they could face severe punishment at the hands of authorities there, an international human rights group said. Police detained Buhalchem (in Chinese, Buheliqiemu) Abula and her 13-year-old daughter near the holy city of Mecca on March 31 and told them that they faced deportation to China along with two Uyghur men already held, according to a message received by Abula’s friends, London-based Amnesty International said in a statement on Monday. One of the men held, Nurmemet Rozi (Nuermaimaiti Ruze), is Abula’s former husband and father of the 13-year who are now also being held. Rozi and Hamidulla Wali (Aimidoula Waili), a religious scholar, have been detained without charge in Saudi Arabia since November 2020. The two men traveled to Saudi Arabia from Turkey on a religious pilgrimage to Mecca and were arrested, though authorities allegedly never told them why they were being held, RFA reported in March. Family members of the two men told Amnesty that the pair had been transferred from Jeddah to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, in a move they believed was a precursor to extradition. “Buhalchem and her daughter were detained in the evening of March 31,” Wali’s daughter, Nuriman Hamdulla, told RFA. “I spoke to her as she and her daughter were taken away. They were given no reason for the detention. We’re not sure where they’re detained now.” “They’re innocent,” she said. “They must be detained at the request of the Chinese government because they didn’t break any law.” Hamdulla also said that she had not received a response from the Saudi authorities about whether her father and Rozi had been sent back to China. “Deporting these four people — including a child — to China, where Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are facing a horrific campaign of mass internment, persecution and torture, would be an outrageous violation of international law,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. “With time seemingly running out to save the four Uyghurs from this catastrophic extradition, it is crucial that other governments with diplomatic ties to Saudi Arabia step in now to urge the Riyadh authorities to uphold their obligations and stop the deportations,” she said. Rights groups, the United Nations and some Western countries have denounced China’s persecution of Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in Xinjiang. China is believed to have detained about 1.8 million people in a network of internment camps across the region, with survivors reporting forced labor, torture and rape. Call for international action Under the international law principle of nonrefoulement and as a state party to the U.N. Convention against Torture, Saudi Arabia is prohibited from returning people to countries where they would face torture, cruel punishment, persecution or other serious harm. Alkan Akad, Amnesty’s China researcher, told RFA that the Uyghurs would likely face arbitrary detention and torture if they were deported to China. “They would be taken to internment camps, and the daughter also would be forcibly separated from her family,” he said. “And so, we call on the Saudi government to release them immediately unless there is international recognizable crime they are charged with.” An official at the office of the Permanent Mission of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations in New York told RFA that the country’s “policy on the Uyghur issue is very clear in all our statements,” but said that she was not responsible for the issue. Amnesty also called on the international community, especially the United States and the United Kingdom as strategic allies of Saudi Arabia, to take action to prevent the illegal extradition of the Uyghurs to China. The call came after two U.N. experts, Fernand de Varennes and Ahmed Shaheed, urged Saudi Arabia on April 1 to abide by the nation’s nonrefoulement obligations and to refrain from extraditing Rozi and Wali. “We are alarmed by the arrest of two Uyghur men in Saudi Arabia, since November 2020, and their continuous detention without proper legal justification or implementation of fundamental safeguards, reportedly on the basis of an extradition request made by China,” the experts said in a statement. “Detention should remain an exceptional measure subject to an individual assessment and regular judicial review, otherwise Saudi Arabia would be depriving the two men of their fundamental rights provided for under national and international law,” they said. De Varennes and Shaheed also requested that Saudi authorities immediately allow the two men to contact their families. The Saudi government has publicly supported China’s antiterrorism measures in what rights activists have said is a tacit approval of the crackdown on predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in Xinjiang. Saudi authorities have returned other Uyghurs back to China after they traveled to the country for work or to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. “We call on the Saudi authorities to immediately release the detained Uyghurs and refrain from deporting them to China, a country that’s committing active genocide against Uyghur Muslims,” said Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress in Germany. “We urge the Saudi government to allow the Uyghurs to leave for a third safe country.” Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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Upward trend in Myanmar online wildlife trade endangers biodiversity and public health

Upward trend in Myanmar online wildlife trade New research by WWF shows that online illegal wildlife trade in Myanmar increased by 74% from 2020 to 2021. The report, ‘Going viral: Myanmar’s wildlife trade escalates online,’ details 173 different species being advertised for sale online in 2021, up from 143 species the year before. Sales of mammal species – either as live animals or their body parts – rose by 241%. Posts that advertised mammals for sale referenced commercially bred civets, meat of the critically endangered Sunda pangolin for consumption, elephant skin pieces for jewellery and juvenile bears as pets. All these animals are used as an ingredient of Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCMs). “WWF research reveals that online trade in wildlife within Myanmar is escalating,” said Shaun Martin, WWF-Asia Pacific’s Regional Illegal Wildlife Trade Cybercrime Project Lead. “Despite the global importance of Myanmar’s biodiversity and everything we now know about the origins of COVID-19, online trade monitoring has revealed different species being kept in close proximity – sometimes in the same cage, wild meat selling out in minutes with demands for more, sales of soon-to-be extinct animals openly discussed in online groups, and trade occurring across country borders. With Asia’s track record as a breeding ground for many recent zoonotic diseases, this sharp uptick in online trade of wildlife in Myanmar is extremely concerning.”  Similar wildlife deterioration was observed in many African countries in the past decade.    Key findings from new WWF report on online trade in wildlife include More than 11,046 products from 173 species were recorded for sale online in 2021. 96% of posts were for live animals, with 87% advertising that animals had been taken from the wild. Mammal sale posts rose 241% from 2020 to 2021. The largest online trading group had more than 19,000 members and over 30 posts a day. The number of traded species on the IUCN Red List rose 80% from 2020 to 2021. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), swine flu (H1N1), avian flu (H5N1), and COVID–19, all originated in animals and have proliferated in Asia in the last two decades. With scientists estimating that 3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals, it is likely that animal to human disease spillover – or zoonoses – would be the trigger for future pandemics. The trade in live wildlife and wildlife parts brings many species and their pathogens together, increasing the potential for spillover to humans. Among the 11,046 wildlife items promoted for sale through social media posts were six species listed as “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, indicating an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. A further seven species were marked “Endangered” and 33 marked “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. Of particular note were posts that advertised the Sunda and Chinese pangolins, both “Critically Endangered” species, with pangolins also identified as carrying SARS-related betacoronaviruses., These posts advertised pangolins as live animals and wild meat, as well as referring to commercial breeding. Similar posts for civets were also seen, with civets identified as the intermediate host of the virus that caused the SARS outbreak in Asia in 2002. “The risk of new pathogen transmission from wild animals to humans – the most common source of new epidemics, and pandemics – is increased by the close contact conditions created by this trade,” said Emiko Matsuda, Group Lead on Biodiversity and Public Sector Partnership, WWF-Japan. “These online sales of live animals and wildlife products need to be disrupted before they escalate any further, endangering Myanmar’s precious wildlife and global public health.”    

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Top British judges quit Hong Kong final appeal court, citing national security law

Two U.K. Supreme Court judges resigned from Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal (CFA) on Wednesday, citing a recent crackdown on dissent under a draconian national security law imposed on the city by Beijing. Non-permanent CFA judges Lord Reed and Lord Hodge had sat on the court “for many years” under an agreement governing the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to Chinese rule, Reed said in a statement. “I have been closely monitoring and assessing developments in Hong Kong, in discussion with the government,” Reed wrote. “However, since the introduction of the Hong Kong national security law in 2020, this position has become increasingly finely balanced.” “The judges of the Supreme Court cannot continue to sit in Hong Kong without appearing to endorse an administration which has departed from values of political freedom, and freedom of expression, to which the Justices of the Supreme Court are deeply committed,” the statement said. U.K. foreign secretary Liz Truss said the government supported the decision. “The Foreign Secretary supports the withdrawal of serving UK judges from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal, following discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister and Lord Chancellor and the President of the Supreme Court,” said in a brief statement, which was signed by Truss and deputy prime minister Dominic Raab. Ruling Conservative Party rights activist Benedict Rogers, who heads the U.K.-based rights group Hong Kong Watch, said the move was the correct one. “Today’s news reflects the sad reality that the national security law has torn apart the human rights and constitutional safeguards which made Hong Kong meaningfully autonomous,” Rogers said. “The British judges’ ongoing presence was providing a veneer of legitimacy for a fundamentally compromised system, and the British government is right to have taken steps to recall them,” he said. The Law Society of Hong Kong, which represents solicitors in the city, called on the judges to reverse their decision. “Unfair and unfounded accusations … against the judicial system of Hong Kong have no place in the discussion about rule of law,” president C.M. Chan said in a letter to news editors. “I sincerely appeal to the U.K. judges to reverse course.” Hong Kong Chief Justice Andrew Cheung noted the resignations “with regret.” Men in white T-shirts with poles are seen in Yuen Long after attacking anti-extradition bill demonstrators at a train station in Hong Kong, July 22, 2019. Credit: Reuters Documentary on attacks The resignations came as internet service providers in Hong Kong appeared to have blocked a 30-minute documentary by Vice News on YouTube detailing the involvement of triad criminal gangs in bloody attacks on passengers at the Yuen Long MTR station on July 21, 2019, amid a mass protest movement sparked by plans to allow the extradition of alleged criminal suspects to face trial in mainland China. The documentary explored in depth the attacks by men wielding sticks and wearing white clothing. “For many, the violence was shocking and symbolized the death of Hong Kong’s democracy,” the platform said in its introduction to the video on YouTube. “It is tragic how a Hong Kong citizen like me had to use a VPN in order to watch this,” YouTube user Dayton Ling commented under the video. “It saddens me that Hong Kong has gone from a first class financial centre to a third world police state.” Several other users commented that the journalist interviewed for the film is currently behind bars, awaiting trial under the national security law. Hong Kong’s national security police recently wrote to Benedict Rogers ordering him to take down the group’s website, which was highly critical of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s rights record in Hong Kong. The U.K., along with Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United States have suspended their extradition agreements with Hong Kong. However, extradition agreements remain active between Hong Kong and the Czech Republic, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea and Sri Lanka, putting anyone traveling to those countries at potential risk of arrest if they are targeted by the law. The national security law ushered in a citywide crackdown on public dissent and criticism of the authorities that has seen several senior journalists, pro-democracy media magnate Jimmy Lai and 47 former lawmakers and democracy activists charged with offenses from “collusion with a foreign power” to “subversion.” Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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