Please click on poster above to access the livestream on YouTube on Fri, 23 Oct at 2pm (SG time).
Please click on poster above to access the livestream on YouTube on Fri, 23 Oct at 2pm (SG time).
The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) is alarmed by the quickly deteriorating election environment in the run-up to the Hong Kong Legislative Council elections scheduled for 6 September 2020.
The new National Security Law that came into effect on 30 June has exacerbated a climate of fear in Hong Kong’s electoral democracy. The law’s ambiguities in criminalizing secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces with sentences going up to life imprisonment has given the authorities sweeping powers to clamp down on civil liberties and human rights.
Several pro-democracy groups advocating for greater autonomy and self-determination, such as the Hong Kong National Front, Studentlocalism and opposition party Demosistō, have since chosen to either disband or relocate abroad over fears of political imprisonment. Activist and former lawmaker Nathan Law has also fled Hong Kong and subsequently withdrawn from the pro-democracy camp’s primaries. Other opposition members are facing an uncertain future ahead as the Beijing-imposed law has empowered authorities to disqualify candidates from running in the election.
The authorities have used the new legislation to threaten the organizers of the 11 and 12 July primaries designed to select pro-democracy candidates to the 6 September legislative elections. Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang claimed the participation in the primaries may violate the National Security Law, while Chief Executive Carrie Lam declared that the coordinated effort by democrats to win a majority in the legislature to oppose government policy “may fall into the category of subverting the state power”, an offense under the new law.
On the day before the primaries, district councilors and a pro-democracy shop faced intimidation attempts to warn them not to use their premises as polling stations. The Hong Kong police also raided the office of the primaries’ co-organizer Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI), accusing the organization of “dishonest use of a computer”.
Despite overt intimidation, the two-day primaries saw a high voter turnout, with over 600,000 Hong Kongers casting ballots in the process. It is commendable that the people of Hong Kong are showing their resilience and determination to resist democratic regression.
The instillation of fear using the National Security Law did not stop after the primaries. Both Hong Kong Liaison Office and Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office have issued strong-worded statements to accuse the primaries of violating the National Security Law. The Electoral Affairs Commission also claimed the primaries are not part of the electoral procedures and reminded the public to take heed of the National Security Law when organizing and participating in election-related activities.
The National Security Law is the latest development in a year-long crackdown on protesters, activists, and opposition forces in the territory. In November 2019, authorities conducted a two-week siege on the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, culminating in over 1,100 arrests in a single day. On 18 April 2020, police arrested 15 prominent activists, including publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai and founder of the Democratic Party Martin Lee, in what was perceived as a hardening of the authorities’ position towards the pan-democracy camp.
ANFREL condemns the sustained intimidation and threats towards the city’s democracy advocates, citizens, and civil society by the authorities of Hong Kong and Beijing. Avenues for debate and constructive dialogue have been steadily restricted, ensuring that the environment prior to the Legislative Council elections can be considered neither free nor fair.
We call for an immediate repeal of the National Security Law, which violates the spirit of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and Hong Kong’s Basic Law and stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers in their pursuit for democracy, attachment to fundamental freedoms, and demands for free and fair elections. We call on the government of China to honor its international commitments and stop encroaching on Hong Kong’s autonomy, rights, and tradition of democratic governance.
Download the full statement here: Hong Kong: Stop Intimidation and Threats Ahead of Legislative Council Elections
Sharing an email in support of our friends at Pink Dot
Hope everyone is keeping well in these final days of Phase 1. Pink Dot 12 is just over a week away! I wanted to drop a quick reminder that there are 3 ways you can participate this year:
1) Light up
This June, turn your homes pink to show a visible sign of solidarity and support for your LGBTQ+ neighbours, who may not be able to light up their own homes. Unfortunately our pink lights are out of stock but you can still order them on Shopee (estimated 1 week delivery) or get creative! Wrapping fairy lights in pink plastic bags does the trick very nicely!
2) Sign up
This year, our formation is going digital! Be part of our first ever digital Pink Dot formation by checking-in online at loveliveshere.pinkdot.sg and leaving a personal message of support.
3) Show up
Join our special livestream event to celebrate Pink Dot 12 with an exciting line-up of performances and video premieres. Head to pinkdot.sg to tune in and chat with fellow viewers at 8pm on the 27th of June. Our digital formation will be unveiled at the end of the program.
You can also get in the mood by posting one of our Instagram filters created by some very talented community contributors. Please help spread the word through your networks and we look forward to you joining us for our livestream on the 27th! :)
Happy pride month everyone!
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) released a report “In Singapore, an Already Unfair Vote Undermined by COVID-19” on Thursday, 18 June 2020.
This report documents structural flaws that potentially prevent elections from being free and fair in Singapore. On page 22 of the report, APHR also makes certain recommendations to safeguard Singaporeans’ right to a free and fair election. These include:
For more information on APHR’s findings and recommendations, please visit https://aseanmp.org/2020/06/18/singapore-report-statement/ and https://aseanmp.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/APHR_Briefer_SingaporeElections_2020-06-16-1.pdf.
The V-Dem Democracy Report 2019 is online! Get it here – https://www.v-dem.net/media/filer_public/99/de/99dedd73-f8bc-484c-8b91-44ba601b6e6b/v-dem_democracy_report_2019.pdf
The trend of autocratization continues, and almost one-third of the world’s population lives in countries undergoing autocratization – a substantial decline of democracy.
24 countries are now severely affected by what is established as a “third wave of autocratization”. These countries include Brazil, India, the United States, as well as several Eastern European countries.
A majority of countries in the world remains democratic.
The first ever model forecasting autocratization identifies the top-10 most at-risk countries: Philippines, Fiji, Mali, Hungary, Guatemala, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Tanzania. This is an invitation for action by the policy and practitioner communities.
Golfrid Siregar Helped to Protect Sumatra’s Rainforests, Villagers
(Jakarta, October 11, 2019) – Indonesian authorities should immediately and impartially investigate the death of an environmental lawyer, Golfrid Siregar, in Medan, North Sumatra, Human Rights Watch said today.
After midnight on October 3, 2019, a pedicab driver found Siregar unconscious and seriously injured on a street in Medan, the provincial capital, and took him to a local hospital. He never regained consciousness and died on October 6. He had suffered multiple injuries and his wallet and other personal effects were missing.
“Golfrid Siregar was an environmental lawyer and grassroots activist who had dedicated his life to protecting Sumatra’s rainforests and helping villagers protect their land,” said Andreas Harsono, senior Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “His death under suspicious circumstances demands a prompt, thorough investigation of all those implicated.”
Siregar, 34, represented the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia, or Walhi), Indonesia’s largest environmental group, in a lawsuit against North Sumatra’s governor over his 2017 approval for the construction of the US$1.5 billion Batang Toru hydroelectric dam. Walhi had argued that the permit issuance process was problematic and was appealing two earlier court verdicts they had lost. He had also sought legal action against the police in a related matter for their alleged failure to adequately respond to a complaint.
On the evening of October 2, Siregar had visited his uncle’s house in Medan, playing board games and having tea, his relatives said. He left by motorcycle at about 11 p.m. to return home. The hospital CCTV shows the pedicab driver who brought Siregar’s unconscious body into the hospital at 1:12 a.m. on October 3. The driver and two people who accompanied him left two minutes later, the police said.
The police later reported that Siregar’s laptop, wallet, ID card, cell phone, and wedding ring were missing, making it more difficult to locate his family. Walhi’s North Sumatra director told the media that Siregar had serious head injuries, swelling in the right eye, and a blue mark, probably internal bruising, on his left hand.
At 11 a.m. on October 3, after locating his motorcycle, the hospital, with police assistance, called Siregar’s family. Surgeons operated later that day and removed a portion of his skull to relieve pressure on the brain.
He died on October 6, leaving his wife, Resmi Barimbing, and their baby daughter, Velycia.
The local police precinct initially claimed that Siregar was injured in a traffic accident. But his family and Walhi have raised concerns that Siregar was murdered: his motorcycle was not damaged and did not have any asphalt marks. His legs and hands did not have any cuts or wounds typical in traffic accidents. His uncle said Siregar only drank “bottled tea” that evening.
North Sumatra police told journalists they are now conducting an autopsy. On October 10, the police arrested the pedicab driver and the other two men for robbery, for allegedly taking Siregar’s possessions after the traffic accident.
Walhi colleagues said that Siregar had received several threats since they had filed the lawsuit against the Batang Toru dam construction in August 2018 although the threats had probably stopped over the last four to six weeks. Siregar was also taking part in a legal case concerning an alleged forged signature in the Batang Toru dam’s environmental assessment report. He was also involved in other controversial North Sumatra litigation, defending villagers against a concrete company in Siantar, helping villagers in Karo regency over illegal logging, and assisting fishermen in Pantau Labu contesting a sand company.
“The nature of Siregar’s death and the threats he received raise numerous alarm bells,” Harsono said. “All those concerned about Indonesia’s environment will be watching the authorities to ensure that a credible investigation occurs and that any crime associated with his death is appropriately prosecuted.”
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Indonesia, please visit:
FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
and its member organization for Laos
Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR)
Joint press release
Paris, 18 July 2019: United Nations (UN) member states must use the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Laos to continue to demand the Lao government determine the fate or whereabouts of civil society leader Sombath Somphone, FIDH and its member organization Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR) urged today.
The two organizations made the call in their joint submission for the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Laos, which is scheduled to be held in January-February 2020 in Geneva, Switzerland.
“Sombath’s case is emblematic of the pervasive culture of impunity for human rights violations in Laos and the climate of fear that has been gripping local civil society. The international community must continue to press the Lao government to deliver justice for Sombath and his family and hold those responsible for his enforced disappearance accountable,” said FIDH Secretary-General Debbie Stothard.
In January 2015, 10 UN member states (Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK) recommended the Lao government conduct an adequate investigation into Sombath Somphone’s enforced disappearance.
In July 2018, the government said it had been “trying very hard” to investigate Sombath’s disappearance. However, this statement has been contradicted by the government’s ongoing refusal to accept international assistance in conducting the probe and to provide any details about the progress of its investigation.
Sombath Somphone was last seen on the evening of 15 December 2012 in Vientiane. Closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage showed that police stopped Sombath’s car at a police post. Within minutes after being stopped, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove away. Analysis of the CCTV footage showed that Sombath was taken away in the presence of police officers, a fact that supports a finding of government complicity.
“The UPR represents a rare opportunity for all UN member states to engage the Lao government on human rights issues. The international community should be relentless in its calls on the Lao government to address the serious and systematic human rights violations that continue to occur in the country,” said LMHR President Vanida Thephsouvanh.
The joint FIDH-LMHR submission focuses on the following human rights issues in Laos since the second UPR cycle, which began in January 2015: freedom of opinion and expression; freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of association; enforced disappearances; torture; prison conditions; freedom of religion or belief; the right to participate in the design and implementation of infrastructure and investment projects; and the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs.
FIDH: Andrea Giorgetta (English) – Tel: +66886117722 (Bangkok)
LMHR: Vanida Thephsouvanh (French, English, Lao) – Tel: +33160065706 (Paris)
More than 30 countries have signed a letter defending China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region in response to Western criticism.
Ambassadors of 37 states from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America praised China’s “contribution to the international human rights cause” in the letter sent to the UN’s Human Rights Council on Friday.
The states, including prominent members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, said China had faced terrorism, separatism and religious extremism in Xinjiang.
But the signatories said China had restored peace and security in the region through counterterrorism measures and vocational training.
“We note with appreciation that human rights are respected and protected in China in the process of counterterrorism and de-radicalisation,” the letter read.
The letter was a riposte to the action taken by 22 mainly European countries at the start of the week.
They had urged China to halt the arbitrary detention of Xinjiang’s ethnic Uighurs and other minority groups, which academics and human rights groups estimate have swept around one million people into forced re-education.
China did not sign the letter submitted on Friday, but the text closely echoed the language of statements delivered by Chinese diplomats to the council on Thursday and Friday.
China condemned the “distortions” and “hypocrisy” of Western media and the countries criticising its actions in Xinjiang. It said that the region’s people “feel much better and much more happy and secure”.
The letter from the 37 countries lauded China’s “remarkable achievements in the field of human rights” and particularly its contribution to “protecting and promoting human rights through development”.
This is a theme China has advanced in separate resolutions to counterbalance the Western attention to political and civil rights.
Signers of the pro-China letter, including Russia, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, also took the opportunity to repeat a position frequently expressed in the UN’s Human Rights Council opposing the “naming and shaming and publicly exerting pressure on other countries” by calling them to account for human rights violations.
New York Times
The Asian Network for Free Elections, being the only accredited international election observation group for Thailand’s 2019 General Election, held a panel discussion in Bangkok on 21 June 2019 to present its final International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) report.
In its report, “ANFREL found the 2019 Thai General Election lacking the most important element that makes elections democratic: a healthy political climate. Although the election was peaceful and without obstruction, its legitimacy is questionable”, said its executive director, Chandanie Watawala. In part, this was because the Thai people were denied access to information that is so vital in any electoral process.
The final mission report of ANFREL’s IEOM emphasized that the election operated in a legal environment designed to prop up the ruling establishment while severely curtailing press freedom and the right to freedom of expression. Freedom of expression for individuals and the media in the lead up to the 2019 Thai general election was more controlled and restricted than during the 2011 general election.
The report was based on the findings gathered by its observers during the entire election period, including election preparation, election day processes, and electoral dispute resolution mechanisms. ANFREL’s assessment is the product of a comprehensive methodology based on international standards and best practices for elections. The mission was composed of 58 international election observers, including two electoral analysts.
Read full report by clicking on the link below:
Indonesia has set its top priorities and one special item that it wants to achieve during its two-year term as a nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which ends in December 2020. As the frontline executor of policy, the Foreign Ministry is expected to stick to achievable targets, like a UN resolution to save the lives of millions of Rohingya in Myamar and at the Bangladeshi border.
Indonesia tends to speak and act on behalf of developing countries in the face of much richer and more advanced nations. These efforts have often been effective and workable, but they have not resulted in changes on many occasions.
For example, Indonesia has for almost four decades pushed in vain for UNSC reform. On this international platform, reforming the UNSC means questioning the veto power of the five permanent members and expanding the big five by giving veto power to a representative country of developing nations, which form the majority in the UN.
“Our position is basically that the membership of the UN Security Council must be adjusted to the situation and the number of countries in the world today,” said Febrian Ruddyard, the Foreign Ministry’s director general for multilateral cooperation.
Indonesia apparently hopes its UNSC nonpermanent member status will amplify its voice on the reform issue and elicit a response from the UN’s powerful members. Experience has shown, however, that such antiestablishment calls fall on deaf ears.
Indonesia therefore needs to set more realistic targets and fight it out, especially the four priority issues — promoting world peace, engendering synergy between regional groupings and the UN to maintain peace and stability, encouraging cooperation in the fight against terrorism, extremism and radicalism, and pushing for concerted efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) — as well as pay special attention to the Palestine issue.
Its consistent participation in UN peacekeeping missions, experience in counterterrorism and democratic credentials will surely help Indonesia convince the UN to support its priority agenda while contributing to world peace and order, for which the UN was founded.
As a regular provider of Blue Helmet troops, Indonesia is committed to boosting peacekeeping and peacebuilding and to improving the quality and effectiveness of peacekeeping missions.
In the area of terrorism, extremism and radicalism eradication, Indonesia is considered a role model for championing law enforcement, unlike other countries that have pursued extrajudicial measures.
While the four priorities and the Palestine issue may not be realized anytime soon, or even by the time Indonesia completes its term on the UNSC next year, the country’s two-year tenure would be more relevant if the impacts are felt at home and in Southeast Asia.
Indonesia’s push for a resolution on the Rohingya crisis will be meaningful, given the many years that the minority Muslim people have endured their ordeal. It will be a Herculean task, because a resolution requires the support of at least nine member countries — and veto powers apply. If Indonesia realizes a resolution, it will be a landmark diplomatic achievement for the country in advancing humanity for the world.