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Secret Police Stations Popping-Up In America—Their Purpose Will Chill Your Core!.mp4

Daniel J Towsey
Daniel J Towsey - 321 Views
Published on 03 Jan 2023 / In People and Blogs

Secret Police Stations

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Pedro-Martin de Clet
Pedro-Martin de Clet 9 months ago

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110 Overseas: Chinese Transnational Policing Gone Wild

Safeguard Defenders

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Pedro-Martin de Clet
Pedro-Martin de Clet 9 months ago

Safeguard Defenders is a human rights NGO founded in late 2016 that undertakes and supports local field activities that contribute to the protection of basic rights, promote the rule of law and enhance the ability of local civil society and human rights defenders in some of the most hostile environments in Asia. 

At any given time, Safeguard Defenders is running about a dozen programs in target countries. From our small head office in Madrid, Spain we work with local partners, who include teachers, lawyers, local independent media organizations and civil society organizations engaged in the promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law. 

Our Madrid office handles the day-to-day management and administration, while our network of staff and partners are located across Asia.

For safety reasons, most staff and partners are kept anonymous, a testament to the severity of the human rights situation in target countries. 

Safeguard Defenders is a registered foundation in the European Union (Spain), under the name Fundacion Safeguard Defenders (G88426192).

our story

The story behind Safeguard Defenders goes back to 2009, the year when a small NGO called China Action was founded in Beijing by human rights activists Peter Dahlin from Sweden and Michael Caster from the U.S. and a small group of Chinese rights lawyers and other human rights defenders (HRD).

Its mission was to support China’s fledging lawyer community. It ran trainings and capacity building projects as well as provided direct support for legal interventions and other assistance to HRDs at risk.

It also established a string of legal aid centres across China, working with, and specializing in supporting, China’s frontline legal defenders, also called ‘barefoot’ or ‘citizen’ lawyers. These stations offered pro-bono legal aid in China’s smaller cities and to local communities. Cases often concerned the rampant abuse and violation of laws by local police and government.

China Action was shuttered in 2016 after Chinese authorities targeted it in a major crackdown and when many of its staff and partners were detained, disappeared or imprisoned, including Peter. 

In the six years before it was forced to close down, China Action worked quietly behind the scenes, expanding its support programs year by year. Despite its low profile, the organisation was periodically harassed by the Chinese authorities. China's Ministry of State Security pressured a young assistant to work as a 'mole'. Another young assistant was targeted as part of an attack on gender and LGBT activism. Meanwhile, both police and state security agents would regularly force trainings to close down, detaining and harassing staff and, more frequently, partners. They would also track, monitor and surveil training activities held in nearby countries. Despite such setbacks, the reach and scope of China Action's work continued to grow.

By the time China Action was forced to close, it had conducted 150 direct interventions to help HRDs, trained some 800 lawyers and ‘barefoot’ lawyers at over 100 training sessions, and provided legal aid and filed some 1,000 lawsuits on the behalf of victims of illegal government actions.

The foundation for Safeguard Defenders was laid in 2016, and was publicly launched in 2017. The organisation has inherited the mission of China Action, but with an expanded scope to support the survival and effectiveness of civil society and HRDs in some of Asia's most hostile environments, including China. 

who we are

Safeguard Defenders focuses almost exclusively on field operations and must therefore deal with the associated security implications. It has four basic divisions, details of which are not made public because of safety considerations. This is especially important for field staff, who make up the majority of our workforce and partners.

The core central staff handle the majority of the administration and management and are primarily located in Madrid. All field staff are based locally, alongside both long- and short-term partners and partnering civil society organizations. Finally, contractors and consultants complement Safeguard Defenders staff as required. 

All staff and partners, with the exception of some of the core central staff, are nationals of the target country in which they operate. For safety reasons, we only release the names of a small number of our central staff. 

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