In this first episode of Just Asia in 2016, AHRC TV covers stories of disappearances and shrinking spaces for the freedom of expression.
However, first up, the programme reports on the conclusion of a rape case in Sri Lanka, more than 14 years after the case began being heard. Rita, unlike many other rape victims, was able to persevere through a decade and a half long trial through courage, determination, and dedicated support from human rights organisations. Today, justice has been served; the perpetrators have been convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison.
Next, Just Asia reports on the mysterious case of disappearing book publishers in Hong Kong. A fifth person linked to the same publishing house, which publishes books critical of the Communist Party of China, has apparently been picked up from the streets of Hong Kong and taken across the border to mainland China illegally. Agnes Chow from the pro-democracy group Scholarism talks about what this means for the future of Hong Kong’s Basic Law and the concept of “One Country Two Systems”, which guarantee freedoms and civil rights to Hong Kongers, denied to people across the border.
Another well-known case of enforced disappearance in Asia has reached its final verdict. Thai human rights lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit was abducted and disappeared from a street in Bangkok in 2004. No remains have been found and, as a result, the Supreme Court of Thailand has now decided that no one can be held responsible for the missing lawyer, as there is no evidence of his death or injury. The previous acquittal of the five police officers who have been implicated in Somchai’s disappearance was therefore upheld by the Court.
Finally, Just Asia marks the one year anniversary of the gruesome massacre of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris by Islamic militants, by noting that the last year has seen a shrinking space for free expression – including the right to offend – worldwide.
PEN International, along with a number of free expression organisations and writers, has published an open letter voicing great concern.
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