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Enforced disappearances on the rise in China says human rights agency

Hong Kong (UCAN): Enforced disappearances by the Chinese government’s security agencies have soared as a means of silencing perceived dissent, Human Rights Watch said at a November 10 news conference in Hong Kong.

It claimed that China’s government has failed to address the growing problem and is instead attempting to effectively legalise it through a revision to the country’s Criminal Procedure Law. 

Under international law, a state commits an enforced disappearance when its agents take a person into custody and then deny holding them or fail to disclose their whereabouts.

Family members and legal representatives are not informed of the person’s whereabouts, well-being, or legal status. Disappeared people are often at high risk of torture—which increases when they are detained outside of formal detention facilities, such as prisons and police stations.

Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said, “Despite a few weak gestures of disapproval, the Chinese government has largely ignored or tacitly approved the security agencies’ proclivity for enforced disappearance and black jails (unlawful secret detention facilities). That inaction has encouraged China’s security agencies to increasingly make enforced disappearances their tactic of choice. The proposed legal revisions are a clear indication of the government’s intentions.”

In November 2009, Human Rights Watch exposed in detail the use of enforced disappearance by government officials and their agents in confining thousands of petitioners—citizens from the rural countryside seeking legal redress in Beijing and other cities. 

The detainees are routinely subjected to physical and psychological abuse, including beatings, sexual violence, food and sleep denial, and extortion. Yet two years later, black jails continue to operate in Beijing and other major Chinese cities.

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