China blocks access to Australian detained for suspected espionage

Yang Hengjun was detained by Chinese authorities in the southern city of Guangzhou while waiting for a transfer to Shanghai last month. (AFP)
Updated 03 February 2019
0

China blocks access to Australian detained for suspected espionage

  • Yang Hengjun, a 53-year-old Chinese-born writer, was detained in the southern city of Guangzhou
  • Beijing’s State Security Bureau is holding him under ‘coercive measures,’ a euphemism for detention

BEIJING: Two lawyers hired by the wife of an Australian detained in Beijing for suspected espionage said they have been denied access to him by Chinese authorities because the detainee did not agree to their appointment.
Yang Hengjun, a 53-year-old Chinese-born writer, was detained in the southern city of Guangzhou while waiting for a transfer to Shanghai last month. He had flown in from New York.
Yang was taken to Beijing, where China has said the city’s State Security Bureau is holding him under “coercive measures,” a euphemism for detention, while he is investigated on suspicion of “endangering state security.”
One of the lawyers, Mo Shaoping, said the state security bureau informed him on Friday that Yang did not accept lawyers appointed by his family. Mo said the bureau rejected his request to verify this with Yang in person.
The other lawyer, Shang Baojun, said: “The thing we’re most concerned about is whether this is the real wish of Yang Hengjun.”
They hoped to glean more information when Australian consular officials are next allowed to meet Yang, Shang said.
China’s Ministry of State Security said in a faxed response questions should be referred to the agencies in charge of the case. It had previously said Yang’s rights and interests were being protected in accordance with the law.
The ministry has no publicly available contact details.
Mo previously said his client was suspected of espionage and was being held under “residential surveillance at a designated location.”
The special detention measure allows authorities to interrogate suspects for six months without necessarily granting access to legal representation. Rights groups say the lack of oversight raises concern about abuse by interrogators.


Burkina Faso forces, militants execute dozens of civilians: HRW

Updated 16 min 21 sec ago
0

Burkina Faso forces, militants execute dozens of civilians: HRW

  • Burkina Faso has seen a sharp rise in extremist attacks in the past three months
  • All the violence occurred near the northern borders with Mali and Niger, between April 2018 and January 2019

OUAGADOUGOU: Burkina Faso security forces have summarily executed more than 115 civilians since mid-last year during operations against militants who themselves have killed over a third of that number, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.
Burkina Faso has seen a sharp rise in extremist attacks in the past three months, as militant groups seek to increase their influence across the Sahel.
A Burkinabe government spokesman declined to comment, but said authorities would issue a statement shortly. None of the multiple militant groups operating in Burkina Faso could be reached for comment.
HRW documented “the execution by Burkinabe security forces of over 115 men accused of supporting or harboring the armed Islamists,” as well as 42 killings carried out by militants of suspected government collaborators.
All the violence occurred near the northern borders with Mali and Niger, between April 2018 and January 2019.
“Scores of people have been murdered,” Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at Human Rights Watch, said. “Villagers are living in fear as both armed Islamists and government forces have demonstrated utter disregard for human life.”
Burkina Faso has become the latest focal point for a determined regional militant campaign, seven years after well-armed extremists took over northern Mali in 2012, prompting the French to intervene the following year to push them back.
However, any evidence of reprisals would present an uncomfortable dilemma for Western allies such as France and the United States: backing security forces in countries such as Burkina Faso is key to containing the militant threat, but that support is meant to be conditional on respect for human rights.
Burkina declared a state of emergency in several provinces in December following an attack by an Al-Qaeda-linked group. The state of emergency was extended by six months in January after an dozens died in ethnic violence triggered by the suspected militant killing of a traditional ruler.
Thousands of people have fled their homes as a result of militant attacks and reprisals by Burkinabe forces.
According to the HRW report, in the village of Gasseliki, about 230 km north of the capital Ouagadougou, militants killed 12 people.
“They kicked the door in, went room to room and found us hiding,” the report quoted a witness as saying. Reprisals by security forces were mostly carried out by a detachment of about 100 gendarmes, or military police, based in the town of Arbinda, since late August, it said.
Most were from the Fulani ethnic group, whom the militants have targeted heavily for recruitment.
Earlier this month, Burkina Faso acknowledged accusations of abuse, saying the army was committed to human rights and that it “investigations are ongoing into the facts.”