New rights group targets corrupt and rights abusers in China under US law

Chinese human rights activists Teng Biao (L) and Chen Guangcheng are shown at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, March 2015. (Photo courtesy: RFA)
Chinese human rights activists Teng Biao (L) and Chen Guangcheng are shown at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, March 2015. (Photo courtesy: RFA)

(, Jan12, 2017) – Chinese rights activists have on Jan 10 launched a new group that will collect data on officials who violate human rights to have them sanctioned under a recently expanded US law that targets corruption and human rights abusers globally, reported the Mandarin and Cantonese services of Radio Free Asia (Washington) Jan 10. The Magnitsky Act in its current form was passed by Congress in Dec 2016. It authorizes visa bans and a block on the US assets of government officials anywhere in the world found violating human rights or engaging in corruption.

Armed with data collected by its members, the new group, The China Human Rights Accountability Center, will put pressure on the incoming administration of Donald Trump to bring the Magnitsky Act to bear on Chinese government officials.

Justifying the launch of the campaign, US-based Chinese dissident and legal scholar Chen Guangcheng has said, “China is a violator of human rights, so you can’t expect it to take positive steps of its own accord.”

“As people who have been on the receiving end of human rights violations in China, we believe that we should join hands to ensure that this law is able to have the maximum impact,” Chen was further quoted as saying. He was jailed and held alongside his family under house arrest for 19 months before making a daring escape in spite of his blindness to the US Embassy in Beijing in 2012.

Fellow US-based legal scholar Teng Biao has said the Magnitsky legislation, which originally targeted Russian officials responsible for the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009, was the best chance activists had of actually holding human rights abusers to account. Magnitsky, a tax lawyer for Hermitage Capital Management, had died in custody at the hands of Russian authorities after he exposed a tax refund fraud scheme.

This law is directly implemented by the US president who will necessarily have to rely on information provided by others for taking action under it. “There is a need for nongovernment groups to supply that information … We want to help the US government use this law to help the victims of human rights violations in China,” Teng was quoted as saying.

Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia is the only founding member who still lives in mainland China. He has said the Magnitsky Act was “second to none” as a tool to hold foreign officials to account.

Senators Ben Cardin and John McCain, who championed the act, had hailed the act’s passage as “a watershed moment” in human rights and anti-corruption work.


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