Tuesday, June 27, 2017

#WithLiuXiaobo : Free Liu Xiaobo and let him and his wife Liu Xia travel abroad to get medical care

Jailed Chinese dissident diagnosed with terminal liver cancer granted medical parole but not allowed to move around freely.

Share hashtag #WithLiuXiaobo and post a selfie with Liu Xiaobo
Unjustly imprisoned for over eight years China's Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiabo is seriously ill and although granted medical parole continues to be arbitrarily detained, although now in a hospital diagnosed with terminal liver cancer his access and movement continue to be restricted. His wife, Liu Xia says that her husband, according to The Guardian, "cannot be given surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy," allegedly "because the cancer is so advanced." Chinese Human Rights Defenders reports that individuals in custody, like Liu Xiaobo, have been denied medical treatment and is a life threatening form of torture. The NGO is calling for him to be freed and allowed to choose doctors and treatment.

Nonviolent dissident, scholar and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison for the crime of speaking. He had already been jailed for more than a year for being one of the authors of Charter 08 that sought to gather signatures in a petition calling on the Chinese regime to gradually shift toward democracy. Liu Xiaobo had played a prominent role in the June 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square engaging in a hunger strike that he mentioned in a statement he made on December 23, 2009 during the political show trial he was being subjected to:
But I still want to say to this regime, which is depriving me of my freedom, that I stand by the convictions I expressed in my "June Second Hunger Strike Declaration" twenty years ago ‑ I have no enemies and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies. Although there is no way I can accept your monitoring, arrests, indictments, and verdicts, I respect your professions and your integrity, including those of the two prosecutors, Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing, who are now bringing charges against me on behalf of the prosecution. During interrogation on December 3, I could sense your respect and your good faith.
Hatred can rot away at a person's intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation's progress toward freedom and democracy. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as I look upon our nation's development and social change, to counter the regime's hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love.

Hard to believe that it has already been eight years and Liu Xiaobo, this symbol of human rights has spent all that time in a Chinese dungeon. Seven years ago, less than a month before the Chinese communist court had rejected Liu Xiaobo's appeal in a process that began with an arbitrary detention in mid 2009. I first addressed the plight of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2010 at the opening of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy:
"Chinese Dissident Liu Xiaobo was arrested on June 23, 2009 and charged with “inciting subversion of state power” for co-authoring Charter 08, a declaration calling for political reform, greater human rights, and an end to one-party rule in China that has been signed by hundreds of individuals from all walks of life throughout the country. On December 25, 2009 Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison and two years' deprivation of political rights. The Beijing High Court rejected his appeal on February 11, 2010."
On January 19, 2010 Havel met with the Executive Director of Human Rights in China, Sharon Hom, and engaged her in a dialogue/interview about Liu Xiaobo, Charter 08 and the struggle for democratic reform in China. When asked about the similarities between China today and Czechloslovakia in 1977 explained that:
The similarities, I would say, are in the basic structure of human rights reflected in a democratic system, which of course the regime doesn’t want. The regime wishes for the dictatorship of one party. I think this is where Charter 08 and Charter 77 are similar: they have similar targets and similar messages to deliver to the [respective] regimes.
On February 3, 2010 both Czech and Slovak members of parliament nominated Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Peace Prize. The nomination was also endorsed by Vaclav Havel and many of the former spokespersons of Charter 77. The 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate, Herta Müller, in a letter to the Nobel Foundation on behalf of Liu Xiaobo wrote:
I have urgent request to make to you today. As you know, Vaclav Havel nominated the Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo for the Nobel Peace Prize 2010.[...]I, too, believe that Liu Xiaobo deserves the Nobel Peace Prize because in the face of countless threats from the Chinese regime and great risk to his life, he has fought unerringly for the freedom of the individual.
Eight months after the rejection of his appeal on October 8, 2010 the Nobel Committee in Norway awarded this Chinese dissident and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience the Nobel Peace Prize despite threats from the Chinese regime. As December 10th, the day for the ceremony to recognize the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, approached the Chinese regime engaged in a human rights crackdown in Mainland China. Neither he or his wife, Liu Xia, who has been kept under house arrest, were allowed to attend. The actress Liv Ullman read the final statement that Liu Xiaobo read out at his December 2009 trial titled: "I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement" already mentioned and cited above.

If you care about the plight of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia then you too will share the hashtag #WithLiuXiaobo and post a picture of yourself with the Nobel Laureate calling on the Chinese government to let Liu Xiaobo and his wife travel overseas to seek treatment.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Cuban dissident sent to the madhouse of death for defying regime

The price of dissent in totalitarian Cuba today

Daniel Llorente running with an American flag chased by secret police on May Day
On May Day 2017 Daniel Llorente Miranda (age 52) a Cuban dissident unfurled an American flag and ran in front of the official gathering in Havana, Cuba. The image captured by international media captured the imagination of many around the world. It was a symbol of freedom and of defiance by a Cuba who understands that "Freedom begins in the mind and that is something that has to change in Cubans, they are afraid to tell the truth. The truth is that in Cuba there is a system where the biggest beneficiary is the government. The people work and benefit the State." Moments later he was tackled down by state security agents and quickly whisked away.

Daniel Llorente knocked down by political police and about to be roughed up
He was charged with "public disorder and resistance" and was initially held at the Technical Department of Investigations of the Police in 100 and Aldabó and the official media slandered his courageous action as an "annexationist dialogue." 

Things took a more sinister turn when over three weeks ago Daniel Llorente Miranda was transferred to the Comandante Dr. Bernabé Ordaz Ducungé Psychiatric Hospital better known by its pre-revolutionary name Mazorra.

Using psychiatric facilities to torture dissidents is a practice that originated in the Soviet Union but was adopted early on by the Castro regime's intelligence services. In the Cuban case Mazorra is a madhouse of death were patients have died by the score from exposure to the elements and neglect by hospital staff.

Cuba's National Psychiatric Hospital "Mazorra"
Daniel Llorente Miranda has been terrorized, responded by going on hunger strike and is now requesting to be exiled. This is the price of dissent in totalitarian Cuba. When you defy the dictatorship you risk: arbitrary detention, death or exile.

Daniel is imprisoned and his life is in danger. He carried out a series of protests and risked all to try to raise the conscience of Cubans and their desire for freedom. The price he is paying is a steep one and he is asking for international solidarity and asylum.

Three of 26 patients who died of exposure in 2010 in Cuba


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Maduro regime still murdering Venezuelan youth but it is failing to silence protests and generating outrage

 Venezuela, June 24, 2017

Protesters shout "murderers" in Carlota, Francisco Fajardo highway

22-year-old David Vallenilla was shot and killed by the military police and is the 75th killed in anti-government protests in Venezuela on June 22, 2017. This has failed to quell protests and is generating outrage among Venezuelans.

The Associated Press reported the following today: "Venezuelan anti-government protesters once again took to the Francisco Fajardo highway Saturday in response to the latest casualty from the protest movement, a 22-year-old student who was shot and killed Thursday."  However the video does not reflect what was taking place at the peak of the protest but only the aftermath.

The press is also failing to mention the extensive involvement of the Castro regime's intelligence services and military assisting Maduro's repressive forces repressing and killing peaceful Venezuelan protesters.

Communism has killed over 100 million persons over the course of the 20th century and continues to do so in the 21st in places like Venezuela.  What Hugo Chavez called "socialism of the 21st century" looks a lot like "communism of the 20th century": a deadly totalitarian failure.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Christian Solidarity Worldwide: Young Cuban religious freedom defender blocked from leaving Cuba

Cuban religious freedom activist Félix Yuniel Llerena has been banned from travel after he returned from his first trip outside of Cuba.


Félix Yuniel Llerena banned from travel

Religious Freedom Defender Blocked From Leaving

19 Jun 2017

By Christian Solidarity Worldwide

A religious freedom defender has been blocked from leaving Cuba to attend a conference on human rights and democracy. Fếlix Llerena López was preparing to board his flight on Saturday 17 June, when state security agents approached him and took him into an office where they informed him that he was barred from leaving the country. 

While Llerena López was not given a reason for the travel ban, he was told that it had been put in place after he returned from a visit to the United States (US) in May, his first trip outside of the country. Llerena López works with the Patmos Institute, an independent civil society organisation which promotes freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) for all and inter-religious dialogue. While he was in the US, he raised concerns about FoRB violations in meetings with US government officials and members of Congress arranged by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). Llerena Lopez was expelled from university shortly after his return.

In addition, last week, a prominent leader in the Apostolic Movement, Pastor Alain Toledano, was visited by state security agents and Communist Party officials at his home in Santiago de Cuba, who showed him an ‘acta de advertencia’, or a pre-arrest warrant, which he is concerned may also be used to block him from traveling abroad.

 In a statement to CSW, Pastor Toledano said, “…the strategy that the police are using here is that they come one by one to the house, they don’t send a citation, nothing written down, and they don’t give you a copy of the ‘actas de advertencia’ against you, even if you ask for one, since they know it can be used against them. They are perfecting their methods so as not to leave any traces of their persecution and acts of evil against the churches and ministries, even as we suffer here in the country.”

While the government requirement for an exit visa was dropped in 2013, there has been an increase in the number of Cuban activists involved with independent civil society organisations and the defence of human rights or democracy being blocked from leaving the country. In one example, that of Karina Gálvez, who works with Convivencia, an independent civil society organisation in Pinar del Rio. The government has brought trumped up charges against her which prevent her from leaving the country. In other cases, like that of Llerena López and also Berta Soler, a leader of the Ladies in White Movement who was prevented from leaving the country last month, officials have simply blocked them from boarding flights out of the country with no official justification given. 

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “We are deeply concerned by what has happened to Felix Llerena López and Pastor Toledano over the past week, and condemn what appears to be a wider strategy of arbitrarily blocking certain human rights and democracy activists, including religious leaders and FoRB defenders, from leaving the country. We call on the European Union, the United States and other members of the international community to raise this with the Cuban authorities and to push for the right of freedom of movement to be respected for all, especially those who are involved in peaceful religious activities and the promotion of universally recognised human rights.”

Related article:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Cuba policy, the Alan Gross precedent and the death of Otto Frederick Warmbier

 Actions have consequences
Alan Gross before and after 5 years in a Cuban prison

American Alan Gross was arrested on December 3, 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison. Alan Gross, an American citizen, spent 25 days in a Havana jail before being visited by a U.S. diplomat. Gross's supposed "crime" was providing uncensored internet access to local Jewish communities, but in reality it was to test the resolve of the new Administration that had just entered office. The signal sent was that Mr. Gross was not a priority and the drive to normalize relations was. Alan Gross was finally freed on December 17, 2014 emaciated, missing teeth and exchanged in a swap with Cuban spies, one of which was serving a life sentence for murder conspiracy. Unfortunately other outlaw regimes were also paying attention and taking hostages knowing that it would provide leverage to advance foreign policy goals as it had the Castro regime.

College student Otto Wambier was sentenced to 15 years in prison and hard labor in March 2016 for trying to steal a political propaganda poster in North Korea. One year and three months later he was released to the United States in a coma acquired in prison allegedly from botulism and died a day after his return. Fred Warmbier, Otto's father, in a press conference prior to the young man's death lamented that the previous Administration 'could have done more.' Worse yet they told the Warmbier family to keep a "low profile" so as not to "upset the North Koreans." "We've been forced to be quiet and act different because we didn't want to 'offend them."

Cuba and North Korea have close relations. Cuba was caught smuggling tons of weapons including warplanes and missiles on a North Korean ship in 2013 in violation of international sanctions. These type of regimes share information on their bad practices.

Alan Gross got out alive, but Otto Wambier was not so lucky. Otto Warmbier's death in North Korea is the responsibility of Kim Jong-un but bad policy contributed. The legacy of appeasing dictators played a role in ending the life of a 22 year old American college student.

Otto Wambier: December 12, 1994 - June 19, 2017