Find us on Facebook
By Robyn Adam
Despite international laws and various human rights bodies, the issue of enforced disappearance is still prevalent in China today. According to the UN International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the term refers to the arrest, detention or deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons acting with the support of the State. This is then usually followed by a refusal to acknowledge this action has taken place or the concealment of the whereabouts of the disappeared person. Enforced disappearance violates a plethora of human rights, including the right to security, the right to a fair trial and the right to a family life.
One of the most famous cases of enforced disappearance involves Tibetan Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, also known as the 11th Panchen Lama. He was 6 years old when he was disappeared by the Chinese government in 1995. While the Chinese authorities have admitted to taking him, to this day they refuse to release any information about him or his whereabouts. Not only is his disappearance illegal under international law, it also violates Article 34 of the Chinese Constitution, which stipulates that any person aged 18 and above is entitled to fundamental rights, such as the right to religious belief. Through his continuing detention the Chinese authorities undermine the second most important spiritual position for Tibetans, after the Dalai Lama.
The issue of enforced disappearance was brought into the spotlight once again in 2012, when amendments to the Chinese Criminal Procedure Law were introduced. The controversial ‘Disappearance Clause’ that this law contained would have allowed police to detain suspects in cases of national security and terrorism, for up to 6 months in secret locations without informing their relatives. Critics across the world warned that this would lead to more power to detain dissenters and could lead to torture. The changes to the original proposal include notifying a family of a suspect’s detention, increased access to defence lawyers and videotaped police interrogations, however human rights organisations and Chinese citizens fear that the police will fail to uphold these new guidelines and that they do not go far enough to protect detainees.
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham