UN representative presses China on missing rights activist

AP News
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Posted: Dec 06, 2016 6:57 AM

BEIJING (AP) — A United Nations representative has pressed China to investigate the fate of prominent human rights campaigner Jiang Tianyong, who disappeared two weeks ago and is believed by friends to be held by state security agents.

Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said Tuesday that he is concerned Jiang's disappearance was a "reprisal" for a meeting between the two in August.

Jiang has been detained and beaten by police as part of his past human rights work involving some of China's most sensitive cases, including that of blind activist Chen Guangcheng and followers of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual group. For more than a year, Jiang had been helping publicize the plight of nearly two dozen lawyers arrested as part of a sweeping 2015 government crackdown.

As that crackdown culminated in August with televised trials, several indicted lawyers and activists delivered confessions in which they described working with foreign nonprofits and shadowy, unidentified foreign forces that were bent on destabilizing China. The carefully scripted remarks bore a pointed message from China's government that foreign groups should stay out of China's internal affairs, analysts said at the time.

Alston said Tuesday that states must refrain from reprisals against people who cooperate with U.N. experts. Other individuals he has met previously in China have also been harassed.

Alston's call came a week after the U.S. State Department urged Chinese authorities to provide information about Jiang's whereabouts.

Jiang told The Associated Press in June that he feared he could be detained at any moment and rarely spent more than a few nights in one place.

He communicated in bursts of text messages and short calls twice a day with his wife Jin Bianling, who has not seen him since she moved to California in 2013 with their daughter to escape constant harassment from security agents.

Jin said she last heard from Jiang on Nov. 21 as he prepared to board a train in Changsha in central China to return to Beijing.

Jiang's friends and family say authorities in Beijing, Jiang's hometown of Zhengzhou, and Changsha, where he was meeting the family of another detained lawyer, have refused to investigate his disappearance.