Swedish human rights activist Peter Dahlin spent more than three weeks in jail in China in early 2016 after he was arrested at Beijing’s airport.
His crime? His organization, Chinese Urgent Action Working Group, advocated for lawyers and journalists facing persecution for simply doing their jobs in the one-party, surveillance state. Chinese authorities claimed Dahlin was jeopardizing national security. He suffered the humiliation of delivering a forced, false confession on state TV.
Dahlin is taking a keen interest in the plight of Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and diplomat Michael Kovrig, who were arrested and jailed more than a month ago in retaliation for the Dec. 1 arrest of Meng Wanzhou. Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei, is wanted for alleged fraud in the United States. She awaits the U.S. extradition application while living on $10 million bail in a posh Vancouver neighbourhood under court-ordered surveillance and curfew.
“You are in a state of being disappeared rather than detained,” Dahlin told host Bob Mackin, recalling the hours of daily interrogation and isolation from a lawyer and his family. “When you’re inside the system, which can last for up to six months without any court order, even the state prosecutor is regularly denied the right to visit, to supervise.”
Last week, China increased convicted drug smuggler Robert Schellenberg’s sentence from 15 years in jail to death row and rejected Canada’s pleas for clemency. That prompted Canada’s government to lobby allies for support and warn Canadians about traveling in China.
China’s ambassador to Canada, Lu Shaye, threatened more consequences against Canada if Huawei’s 5G telecommunications network is rejected. Members of Canada’s Conservative opposition have urged Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to directly contact Chinese president Xi Jinping. Meanwhile, Meng’s father and Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said in a rare interview that his daughter was treated kindly while she was jailed for a week-and-a-half in December.
“The resistance shown by Canada has taken [China] by surprise and they will try to escalate the situation step-by-step until they can see that Canada is willing to negotiate and take the step to de-escalate the situation,” Dahlin said.
theBreaker.news Podcast also debuts a new, occasional feature called Reporter’s Notebook, in which a reporter talks about the story behind the story and an issue impacting the media.
The first guest is Brett Mineer, afternoon drive host from Radio NL in Kamloops, B.C. Drone pilot Mineer discusses Transport Canada’s new drone regulations, to take effect June 1, and recounts how he unwittingly became the focus of a story. Mineer criticized the tone of a protest that coincided with Trudeau’s visit to Kamloops and was threatened with physical harm by Yellow Vest Canada supporters on social media.
“It’s not anonymous, people were more than happy to put their names to it,” Mineer said. “Still, there is no accountability because the bar is pretty high for the police to go knock on your door for online harassment.”
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